Outside the bento box


2110 L St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 492-2727

Hashi has happening happy hours. Half-price healing malt beverages, $1 nigiri one night, half-price rolls on another. There is discrepancy between Hashi’s Web site and table placards as to which nights are which, but there is unanimity among smart diners and happy-hour habitués that Hashi holds a spot high on the affable and affordable list. However, there’s a lot more happening here than cheap eats and drinks.

Like all things real estate—location, location, location. And it can get kind of lonely at L and 21st streets, particularly at lunchtime. A compelling reason why lunch is—temporarily, it’s asserted—no longer being served at Hashi. Doing so reduces operating costs by 30 percent, the gregarious barkeep at a Friday happy hour informs. Misty, the friendly and fact-filled lunch hostess/waitress, has been lifeboated to Nishiki, the sushi spot at P and 16th streets. Nishiki is owned by the same folks who bring Sacramento Hashi, Danny Leung and Joe Jang. Hashi occupies the space formerly known as Stonegrill & Bar, a Leung-Jang creation where the entrée shows up searing itself on a slab of volcanic stone. Apparently, this “uniquely interactive” dining experience didn’t attract the desired droves. The result is Hashi, “chopsticks” in Japanese.

Stonegrill’s loss is Sacramento’s gain. And, on behalf of the City of Trees, I wish to express unbridled gratitude for the outside-the-bento-box creations Hashi produces. Consider Garlic Fin, a close relative of Nishiki’s Pepperfin. When Garlic Fin hits the table, vampires at the wine bar three blocks away stop checking out the prime cuts and recoil. Albacore, avocado, jalapeño, ponzu, littered with a snow of minced garlic. “They’re not shy on garlic,” Misty says, with profound understatement.

Equally out-of-the-extraordinary are the Fire Oysters. Pesto? Jack Cheese? Japanese mayo? Wasabi? Tobiko? Tabasco? Together? Yes, indeed. Blanketing a half-dozen baked oysters. Superlatives pale. Misty, bring out another six at once, kudasai.

Those are but two of Hashi’s 25 appetizers or “small plates,” to use the current vogue in menu nomenclature. Orange Hamachi—spicy-sauced yellowtail inside an orange—is vetoed by Misty in favor of the Garlic Fin. For scallop and ’shroom lovers, TNT: enoki and shiitake, onion, bathed in a zippy aioli. Pyramid of Tartare. Eggplant salad. Miso-marinated black cod. This is still the top of the menu.

Moving down, there’s plenty of magic. Stonegrill lives on. Kobe. Surf and turf. Tuna, scallops, prawns. A mixed grill of steak, lamb and pork. Hashi’s favorite: scallops and pork tenderloin. Or grilled veggies. Each and every one on a hot—almost twice the temperature at which books burn—volcanic brick.

Cooler, at least temperaturewise, are a variety of inspired sushi rolls. Misty’s favorite is the $9 Princess—albacore, avocado, cream cheese, spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, scallions and secret sauce. It’s one of my many failings, but cream cheese is reserved for bagels, dips and cheesecake, so Spicy Vargas gets called up instead. A buck more than the Princess, it lives up to its billing. Hard not to, with spicy snow crab, chili oil, jalapeño and ponzu neatly leavened with shrimp tempura, salmon, avocado, onion and lemon.

Again, venturing well outside the bento box is the Godzilla roll: mango, coconut flake, walnut, avocado and shrimp. A bit more mainstream is the Treasure roll, but still the bane of bloodsuckers with its garlic sauce. Save for some avocado and scallions, the rest is tuna, tuna, tuna: dark, light, spicy, plain. It’s one of the seven happy-hour discounted rolls.

Bento boxes abound. Miso, gyoza and a choice of two items from a 14-item list of options that includes mixed sashimi, Korean short ribs, tofu, tonkatsu, BBQ albacore and teriyaki. Boxes are $12 at dinner, several dollars cheaper when lunch service resumes. The sake selections are varied—20 types, of which 14 come from the home country. The remainder are brewed locally, relatively speaking.

Hashi scores high for creativity, service and, in particular, safety from vampire assault.