After seven successful years, Hachi is shaking things up with a new executive chef and an alluring Saturday lunch. Words by Erin Hale, photography by Dominic Ronzo.

Saturday afternoon often leads to the eternal quest for brunch. Thankfully, Sofitel Phnom Penh’s flagship Japanese restaurant, Hachi, now offers an exciting alternative to the same old eggs and potatoes: all you can eat sushi and more for $35.

If that sounds like more than a typical weekend lunch, that’s because the ingredients are flown in from Tokyo’s famed Tsuikiji fish market. Ingredients alone put restaurants such as Hachi in a class of its own in a city awash with sushi options. Add the skills of latest head chef, Katayama Yashuhiro, and guests are in for a treat.

Katayama brings years of experience from working in Japan, New Zealand and India to Phnom Penh.

Lunch offers a wide range of options, starting with the sushi. The salmon and spicy tuna sushi are alongside crunchy shrimp tempura or soft-shell crab rolls in front of the main sushi counter. It can be a lot to take in but with two hours, it’s possible to try it all.

One of the best dishes – and also the hardest to make – is the unagi sushi (eel), served cooked rather than raw on a small ball of rice. Its simple presentation hides the difficulty of working with the texture, Biting into the soft unagi and perfectly cooked rice, it’s clear that his work was not in vain.

Patrons will find three varieties of tuna, including blue-fin tuna sashimi, spicy tuna, and tuna belly, the softest and richest part of the fish. Hachi also stocks three different varieties of Japanese beef for connoisseurs: Wagya, Kobe and Hida.

After satisfying a raw fish craving, there’s a range of cooked dishes to try. Hachi serves up karage (Japanese fried chicken), hirekatsu (fried pork tenderloin) and Japanese curry – a milder but distinctively rich version of the Asian favourite.

Don’t miss out on the seemingly simple tempura, battered shrimp or vegetables. Hachi’s prawn option is made with fresh ingredients so biting into it the texture is much softer. With the perfect amount of frying and batter-to-fish ratio, the tempura comes off as light and crunchy rather than heavy and greasy.

The mango mousse and green tea cake make for a sweet ending or, if that’s too filling after several plates of sushi, round off lunch with some green tea. For those looking for a “boozy lunch” on a slow Saturday afternoon – perhaps during Khmer New Year – try the free-flow sake for $20 or a sake flight of three glasses for $10, $15 or $20 combinations.

The Saturday lunch special has only been running for a few weeks, but it’s one of many new changes at Hachi. Plans are in the pipeline to start cooking classes soon for Phnom Penhers who want to try their hand at making Japanese cuisine themselves.

In the meantime, for anyone craving sushi during the week, Hachi offers its $15 business lunch – a bento box with a selection of sushi and other items – or a full dinner menu.

Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeetra, Sothearos Boulevard.
Tel. 023 999 200.
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm and 6pm to 10pm.