Let me get this out of the way: if you haven’t tried Hashi Sushi yet, which appeared on the Forest Street dining scene back in late 2017, just go, immediately, and read this later.
“I’m from California.”
These are the three most irritating three words you’ll ever from a dining companion, and yet they’re my actual truth. I’ve been told that my biography comes off as a holier-than-thou mantra, the words of a keen initiate raised within swiping distance of the Pacific Ocean, Alice Waters, and some truly exceptional Japanese food. Being a Californian means a whole lot of things, like having sub-par snow driving skills, saying “the” before “95” or any numbered highway, and internalizing a pretty rigorous set of standards for sushi. The second word I ever said as an infant was ‘avocado,’ and you can call my mom to verify that. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a sushi snob, because I find that phrase faintly irritating, but I don’t suffer sushi fools gladly, either.
When I moved from the West to the East coast eight years ago, I knew exactly what I was forgoing in terms of fresh, inventive, healthy raw fish offerings (not to mention ripe, flawless avocados) and yet I somehow actively decided I’d be fine. New York has the Met! New York has thin-crust pizza and Danny Meyer and bialys and Le Bernardin! Plus, I have to constantly go (go) back (back) to Cali (Cali) for work. I figured I’d be fine.
And I was, for quite some time, though I worried that we’d find a bit of a sushi drought when we moved up to these northern suburbs.
“Why does this Chinese restaurant also have sushi and Thai food and also hotdogs on their menu?” I would ask my husband from behind a takeout menu. “How do we know that they’re good at any of those things, let alone all four?”
Lucky for me, my husband is always on board for an investigation, so we explored some Asian restaurants throughout Fairfield County and discovered several excellent spots. For fresh, inventive Chinese and an unbeatable lunch special? Ching’s Table can’t be beat. For soup dumplings? Ren in Wilton. But for a sushi place you’d gladly take your out-of-town friends to? As of late 2017, we still didn’t have a satisfactory answer to that question.
Hashi Sushi announced its arrival on Forest Street long before it showed up, and we were a tiny bit skeptical. Sushi? Cool, but sushi to the standards of your average East Coast suburb? We might wait that one out. Except our curiosity overtook us, and one Friday night in December when Farmer’s Table had too long of a wait, Hashi beckoned. I was transfixed by the life-sized silk cherry tree in the center, frozen in a state of permanent blossom. We thought we’d have a drink and an appetizer, but as I scanned the menu, my irritatingly Californian spirit got the better of that plan.
“They have uni from Santa Barbara! Look at these super-inventive rolls! It’s almost like LA! Or better yet, like San Francisco, but before all the tech bros ruined it!”
We ordered dinner that night, and we were astonished and straight-up delighted by what we found. Hashi has an abundant menu of flavorful, nicely balanced rolls, ranging from well-executed, reasonable sushi classics like yellowtail and scallion ($6), to crowd-pleasing specialty maki, like the New Canaan roll (pepper tuna, avocado and jalapeño, topped with crabmeat, $16). There are some rolls with fried things and cream cheese on them, if you’re feeding kids or less-adventurous adults. But my advice is to focus on the fish, and you won’t be disappointed.
We went for, and have gone for on every visit since, a full Omakase, which, in Japanese means “random” but in sushi restaurant parlance, translates more gently to “trust me” and means you get a selection of the best fish that night. At Hashi, this ceremony of trust and surprise only sets you back $45 per person—easily half what it would at an inferior joint in New York. We’re not afraid of an abundance of food, but because Andrew has pretty serious allergies to clams, oysters, mussels and scallops, we have to set a boundary. Once we have a chance to communicate that, we trust the sushi chefs at Hashi completely. There has never been a plate that’s let us down.
It begins with soup or salad, as most good dates should, and I always opt for salad because of that insanely magic carrot-ginger dressing that accompanies a Japanese restaurant salad. Andrew swears by the miso soup, which he says is “mushroomy” and “top-notch.”
After that course, we settle into our glasses of wine (or, sometimes, sake or Sapporo) and guess at what will come out first. On a recent trip, the amuse-bouche was a showstopper: a hand-fired ceramic bowl filled with a cold, light soy broth, in which floated baby yellowtail, black truffles, enoki mushrooms and clear fish roe flecked with gold leaf. It was a delicious gift from the sushi chef, rich and compelling and with the gold leaf, just weirdly flashy enough to totally work in Fairfield County. It doesn’t always feel right for me to eat a precious metal whose only nutritional value is the reassurance of its own preciousness, but I cannot and will not complain about how this particular gold appeared on these particular fish eggs, because the gold had undeniably made the dish beautiful, and eating is about all the five senses. Baby yellowtail was carefully folded in the broth, and shaved truffle lent it legit umami magic. We were grateful and, at this point, pretty excited for what came next.
Our next plate was absolutely free of conflicting emotions. We were served five individual pieces of artfully composed Nigiri, which is to say, raw fish over over Hashi’s warm, soft sushi rice. Striped jack (shima aji) was firm and briny. Baby yellowtail (kampachi) had was topped with by fresh ground wasabi and yuzu, my perennial favorite Japanese citrus kick. King Salmon had more shaved truffles atop it, as well as a perfectly spot-broiled attached skin (hello, Omega 3’s!). The yellowtail and tuna belly (toro) scallion pieces that followed were appropriately melt-in-your mouth happiness, and I tried to savor each piece but did a poor job of it. Toro comes from the belly of the tuna, the source of all the good marbling and all the joy, and we closed our eyes with the kind of bliss that yogurt commercials have spent decades and millions trying to recreate.
One of the reasons I believe that the Omakase order at Hashi Sushi is the best sushi value in Fairfield County is that it comes with TWO courses of this nigiri magic. Andrew and I try to make a habit of not being monsters and are generally kind to restaurant personnel, but I don’t believe that this second plate is a special favor we’ve somehow curried for ourselves. After I enjoyed a single Kumamoto oyster with ginger and horseradish, we tucked into the next course, which included eel, sweet shrimp, that sweet, sweet Santa Barbara sea urchin (uni) and another toro scallion piece to round us off and send us to sleep. So buttery, so carefully composed, so worth the money and the calories. It beats most of the sushi we had in Manhattan. And the service and the price are without peer.
It’s a satisfying bout of amnesia when you think your Omakase is over but it actually isn’t, and while we were getting ready to pay the bill, an out-of-towner near us had began to conduct a fairly loud conference call on his AirPods. While I tried to throw him a few looks that said “take it outside” he was oblivious. When a pair of crab (kani) handrolls were delivered, it was my turn for oblivion. The man and his absent manners were soon forgotten, but the handrolls will not be.
Crab can disappoint at sushi restaurants. It can be sticky or fishy or not really crab but actually krab, which is perhaps the biggest gastronomic insult of all. Hashi’s crab is gloriously Crab with a C not a K, and we got down to the business of enjoying it.
There are things Hashi could do better (wine list) just as there are things I could do better (exercise restraint) and yet, and the end of an Omakase meal, I feel like we’re both exceeding expectations. There aren’t 45 dollars better spent on sushi within 30 miles of New Canaaan, I guarantee you that. And if you’re planning a long hike in the morning, as I usually am, get the Omakase. Rolls are great and all, but they’re not the ultimate measure of a chef and his fish.
I’m from California.
11 Forest Street