The hype on this place is EPIC. The people who consider themselves "regulars" are loyal beyond belief. I have my favorites too, so I get that. I read up on Hino before I went, owned and operated by Terry Hino; he's in it for the love of food, etc. etc. Every review you read warns you not to "judge a book by its cover" because the front of house appearance isn't as decadent as you may be used to seeing in the greater Ottawa area. I was really expecting to be wowed with the food and dislike the decor when we walked in. And then the worst thing in the world happened....it ended up not hitting either one of those expectations.
We couldn't find a menu online to look at before we went, so it was kind of an ambush moment when she brought us the lunch menu and there were NO appetizers available except 2 soups. I wanted to try the gyoza everyone had been raving about, but when I asked she told me they only make what is on the menu. Bummer sauce... (no that isn't on the menu, but I got a full helping of it anyhow...)
My "look around" time didn't take much time at all, with the open floor concept they had going on you can see everywhere in the place from any table. But the true, sad thing about the interior is that I have seen worse...WAY worse. In Ottawa. So, it was easy for me to relax a bit as I looked around.
We sent in our orders, deciding that we'd just share what we got with the Sprout. I was troubled a bit when I asked her what was popular off her menu and she said "The burgers." In a Japanese place? Was it Kobe beef?? I explained to her that I was a flogger and I was looking for more of an authentic Japanese experience, she recommended the Curry Shrimp with Singapore Noodles. I wasn't going to challenge that, after all...people DO say "Japanese Fusion" when they talk about Hino. The next thing that happened puzzled me to no end. She brought us a basket of sliced white bread and 4 pats of butter...
I frequently bake bread....from all different cultures mind you. This wasn't Japanese pan...lol...this was from Loblaws bakery section; the butter was obviously rancid. I was very disappointed....and starving. Usually for butter to get rancid the oils have to sit exposed to air for quite some time at room temperature, but our butter was solid and cold. What the?? Man, I would have KILLED for some okazu pan right about then. *sigh* I whiled away my time waiting for my entree by looking around and trying to figure out why the place SO LOVED by all was completely empty except for me, my Mister and the Sprout. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the door open. I thought to myself "Oh, good...some action." because I like to watch how other customers are treated as well. But alas, it was the post carrier; in and out like a flash.
We could smell our food being prepared, being that we were the only ones there and only two dishes were being prepared it was easy to pick out the smell of my dish. It smelled like curry all right. It was to the table in a flash when it was done.
Curry Shrimp with Singapore Noodle
It turned out to be better than I thought it was going to be based on the bread and butter situation, but it was just "okay". It didn't "wow" me, I wasn't impressed and it sure didn't endear the place to me. Most of my shrimp were cooked correctly, luckily any that weren't ending up being overdone, not underdone. But I sat there thinking I could have made that at home. The noodles were not rice noodle. This dish tasted like someone scrambled some eggs and tossed them in shrimp flavored ramen noodles with some curry dusted shrimp. Period. I wanted to love the place, but it didn't happen.
When we walked in and I saw the white board on the wall I was excited to eat, I asked the waitress if those were the specials for the day but they weren't. They were the specials for the dinner hour only. Had I been able to see the lunch menu I wouldn't have gone there for lunch. I would have gone next door to the Alpha Soul Cafe and waited until the dinner hour some other night to go to Hino.
It would seem like Hino only shines at night. I'm not exactly sure that I'd go back to give it a second try though based solely on the butter situation. Details are everything with me, when the smallest things are lacking it always makes me wonder what is being left out in the other elements of my experience of the meal. They weren't too fast about making our meal either...and we were the only people there. Our experience just does NOT match what everyone else has had. I'd like to think the chef just had a bad day, but the lunch menu was so sparse on choice of authentic Japanese fare that I am leaning more towards the menu needing a revamp than anything else. The prices were definitely reasonable, but that isn't enough to get me back in the door. Did I "like it"...I didn't hate it; I just felt let down.
If you have had a different, better experience by all means, let me know. Tell what you had, time of day you went...if you remember tell me the day of the week too. I'm trying to figure out why the experiences were SO different between me and.....well, everyone else.