Sushi Hotaru

Shop 118, Level 1
MidCity Arcade
200 Bourke Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9663 7538

Disclosure: I was given a $40 voucher to sample the selections at this restaurant

Sushi Hotaru Train Melbourne 6880

There aren’t that many sushi trains in Melbourne and this place had been on my radar for sometime. It’s known for its huge variety of items on offer and very affordable prices, where the vast majority of the items are priced at $3 per plate. Late last year, I received an invite asking if I’d like to sample this place and review it, and seeing that it syncs with what’s on my wishlist – I agreed. I received a $40 voucher to spend at this restaurant and we visited here on a Monday night in Summer.

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On arrival, the place was packed with a sizeable queue of hungry diners waiting outside its glass sliding doors. Once seated, you’re pretty much left to your own devices and there isn’t much by way of introduction by the waitstaff on how the system works. It was slightly disconcerting at the start, but the truth is everything’s already there for you. Your chopsticks, napkins, sauces on the table… a constantly moving sushi train streaming an endless variety of little eats that you can pick to your heart’s desire… and a touchscreen iPad system for you to order drinks and specific dishes that aren’t on the revolving train. For the less tech savvy amongst us, there’s also a card menu with all the dishes on offer.

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Seaweed Salad $3 | Black Sesame Latte $5.50
Miso Soup $2.50 | Lobster Salad $3

Fatbee swiftly embarked on our meal before I even had a chance to figure out my blogger’s game plan for that night, leading me on a mad dash to snap photos of all the plates of food he’d lifted from the sushi train within minutes of us sitting.

We started off with two types of gunkan sushi, where the rice is wrapped with a strip of nori (seaweed). They were okay and not the freshest offerings of sushi I’ve had. To go with our meal, Fatbee had a cup of black sesame latte (it was like a thin milkshake with good levels of sweetness) while I imbibed on a rather watery bowl of subpar miso soup.

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Assorted Sashimi $7.90

We continued with a mandatory serve of sashimi which came at a slightly more premium price tag, along with complimentary packets of instant wasabi that can be found stacked in bowls on the sushi train. While I appreciated how the cuts of fish came quite generous, I once again found it lacking in freshness. The maguro akami (Bluefin Tuna) in particular had a not-that-pleasant fishy smell.

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Wagyu Beef Tataki $3 | Prawn $3

We next explored the nigiri sushi selections, both of which were just o-kay. By this point, we both decided that perhaps it’d be wiser to steer clear of the raw sashimi-type offerings and stick with the cooked and fried offerings at this restaurant.

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Eel with Cream Cheese Roll $3 | Eel Nigiri $3

These items were a bit better. First up, a rather unusual roll that contained unagi (freshwater eel) and cream cheese in it, and then a simple unagi nigiri sushi. I did not mind the cooked unagi in both of these rolls.

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Soft Shell Crab with Tartar $3 | Soft Shell Crab Roll $3

The soft shell crab hand roll (ordered via the touchscreen system) turned out to be the best dish we’d had that night. It came hot and crispy and I liked the generous wrapping of nori around it. The other version was also alright, but not as lovely as the hand roll. I should also point out that I quite liked the sushi rice served at this joint, it had a nice (discrete yet sticky) texture and was decently seasoned.

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Takoyaki (Octopus Puffs) $3 | Agedashi Tofu $3

These were our last two dishes before we were completely stuffed. Once again, I liked how the takoyaki came crisp and hot, and chuckled a little at the unceremonious placement of that packet of sauce on the plate. The agedashi tofu, however, did not hit the mark for me because the sauce was a bit too oily for my liking.

After so many plates of food, one touch of the screen alerted the waitress to count our stack of empty plates and tally our bill. Seeing that our meal ended up costing us $45.90 ($5.90 after using the restaurant voucher), you could say this place has to be one of the most affordable sushi restaurants in Melbourne with a big menu to boot.

While I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the offerings, I believe one should look at it objectively and understand that you can’t expect a WOW plate of sushi if you’re forking out $3 for two pieces! To put things in perspective, a good Japanese meal for me usually costs upwards of $45 per person and you often leave still hungry.

I think this place will suit students, casual eaters and those who aren’t that fussy with their sushi. And if you’re smart and know what to pick from the huge menu (ie. the non-raw dishes), you probably can have quite a good meal here at a fantastic price.

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