Japanese food doesn’t get better than this in southwestern Germany
There are no dragon rolls at Hashimoto.
There are no rolls with cream cheese, jalapeno, mango, or much else invented in the West to get people who don’t like sushi to eat it.
Some of those types of rolls do taste good — any New York deli knows salmon and cream cheese belong together.
But Japanese sushi is all about the preparation of the seasoned rice and the quality of the topping. It sounds simple, but it isn’t.
Hashimoto in Saarbruecken is one of the few restaurants in the region that serves authentic sushi, along with other dishes you rarely see outside of a large Japanese community. I spent a large chunk of my adult life living in Japan, and this is where I go with Japanese friends and family.
Hashimoto’s serene decor and its window views of the neo-Gothic St. John’s Church across the street are going to waste for the moment because of coronavirus restrictions. But Hashimoto is offering limited takeout, and what they’ve got makes for a seriously classy picnic at Saarbruecken’s parks. There are some nice spots along the Saar river, though I recommend the expansive German-French Garden, a few miles from the restaurant and just inside the German border.
The sushi “ume” plate comes with eight nigiri and six maki. Salmon and tuna will invariably be there, while cured mackerel, yellowtail, eel and egg may be in the mix based on availability. My most recent order included some higher-grade tuna in some of the rolls.
It’s not a lot of sushi for 22 euros, and like at many restaurants, the prices have gone up to compensate for lost business. But what you get is superb, particularly the rice. Don’t believe me about the importance of the rice? Take a glob of unseasoned, mushy rice and put it under your favorite topping. It’s not going to make the topping better.
Plump, firm, slightly sticky, short-grained rice will elevate something as humble as cucumber and turn high-quality fish into a delight. The rice is normally cold-rinsed several times, strained, steamed and then seasoned with rice vinegar, and hints of salt and sugar. Sake may also play a role, depending on the chef.
I haven’t asked for Hashimoto’s rice recipe, but its sushi, while not in the same league as Japan in terms of fish variety, is as good as what you’ll find at many restaurants there.
Hashimoto offers some a la carte sushi; I’ll usually add a salmon roll for about 6 euros. Our last picnic outing also included a bento box with “karaage,” or Japanese fried chicken.
There’s a proverb saying that “Japanese eat with their eyes,” and unfortunately the bento loses a lot in terms of presentation as takeout.
The fried chicken still had hallmark flavors of sake and mirin, but if you don’t eat it right away, it suffers the same indignities of texture as any fried food left to sit. For the same reason, I’d recommend against takeout tempura, which is excellent in the restaurant.
The bento boxes do have a nice variety to go with the main dish, including a piece of pork belly, potato, cooked fish, spinach and a dash of kimchi with the fried chicken. Other bento boxes include beef, vegetables, and chicken or salmon teriyaki.
The menu options grow at dinner for in-person dining. I recommend the akadashi, a red miso soup with fish as a starter. If you’re ready to splurge, they do offer 150 grams of Kobe-style wagyu beef for 44 euros. I haven’t had it here, but good wagyu’s marbling makes it surprisingly filling.
Hashimoto is more expensive than some Japanese-style options in the Ramstein area, and it’s about a 40-minute drive from the air base. But when I take a bite and close my eyes, for a moment I’m back in Yokohama. That’s worth a little extra for me.
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Location: Cecilienstrasse 7, 66111 Saarbruecken
Hours: Takeout pickup times: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (Sundays from noon); evenings between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dining in: noon to 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., last order at 9 p.m. Closed Monday and Thursday; Saturday open for dinner only. Hours are subject to change.
Dress: Smart casual for dining in.
English menu: Menus are in German, Japanese and French, but it’s nothing a translator app can’t handle. Some staff speak a little English. Menus available at their website. For takeout, orders can be emailed, preferably the day before.
Prices: 16.50 euros for a lunch bento box, 22 euros for a combination sushi plate. A la carte dinner entrees mostly range from 11-26 euros. Wagyu beef, 44 euros. Six-course dinner menu starts around 55 euros.