Very cheap eats: Hibari (South Yarra) 09

Hibari, at 479 Malvern Rd., continues to be an extremely popular Japanese restaurant despite low ratings from the AGF. It is small, seats 30, and noisy with simple wooden tables and uncomfortable wood chairs. Despite these deficiencies booking is advisable. We arrived for a midweek meal about 8.30 pm and after a short wait were shown to a recently vacated table. There we waited and waited and waited! I walked down to the business end of the restaurant and picked up some menus. We made our selections, still no attention, so I walked back and took some glasses and a jug of iced water and inquired if it was self service as we were ready to order! A waitress then came back to the table with me. We ordered gyoza, they promised five but sent six, here’s a lone one,

spring rolls, they promised three but sent two cut in half,

and a potato and crab meat entreee, three as promised.

The gyoza were very nicely flavoured, the spring rolls had extremely crisp thin pastry but were a bit thin and dry but the potato and crab meat was particularly good, smooth and moist under a layer of crumbs, they were a subtly flavoured delight. For mains the sukiaki beef was numero uno with a raw egg to stir in if you wished,

I did, and a lovely slightly sweet well balanced sauce. The beef and crumbed pork curry

was gently flavoured. Mild and light and unoffensive I enjoyed it. The mixed seafood served in a pot at $22 the most expensive thing on the menu,

totally bland, despite some sort of putsy sauce which did nothing for it. Very disappointing. Ready to go, and experienced now, I went straight to the cash register. The person in attendance apologised and I paid the remarkably small bill. ($83 which included $4 corkage and a couple of extra bowls of steamed rice.

They have a modest and inexpensive wine list but also accept BYO.

This would rate as the worst service ever. It is a busy little restaurant, full when we arrived and I’m sure this level of neglect is unusual but it certainly makes one feel distinctly unimportant. The food was good and I would go back to try some other dishes despite the initial poor experience. I’m glad tipping is not, as in America, mandatory.

Score 13/20