Hotaru Japanese Restaurant – San Mateo, CA

Since AK & S moved to Noe Valley, we don’t eat out as much unless Meep and I are in San Francisco during the weekends. So this weekend, we made plans to meet halfway in San Mateo.

Got there at about 6.50pm and got our table 15 minutes later. The restaurant was packed and by the time, we left there was a line out the door. There is an upper floor w 3 table of fours.

We passed the kitchen as we walked to our table on the upper floor.

Menu consisted of 2 pages of appetisers, sushi & sashimi and another 2 pages of bento boxes/combination dinners.

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We ordered:

Croquette $4.95

Breaded and deep fried mashed potatoes with bits of beef

The croquette was ok. It was a little dense with chunks of meat and a nice crust.

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Gyoza $5.75


Pan fried Japanese pork dumplings with vinegar dipping sauce

The gyoza had a nice delicate skin, that was pan seared on one side. Loved the skin but not crazy about the filling. Not bad but not great.

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Beef tongue $4.80

Lightly grilled and salted beef tongue

Thin slices of beef tongue lightly grilled so it had a nice smoky flavour. A lot chewier than I expected but well seasoned. Not bad.

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Tsunami Roll $8.45

Spicy scallop, avocado, kani salad (crab salad) & cucumber and ikura (salmon roe)

Pretty standard roll. The scallops on top were nice and fresh. It was generously filled with imitation crab salad and a good amount of rice. Rolled well so it did not fall apart easily. The salmon roe fell of the roll and was just left on the plate.

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Hotaru Roll $8.45

Eel tempura, kani salad (crab salad), tobiko, avocado & cucumber

The eel tempura was almost non existent. The main component was the imitation crab salad and cucumber so it pretty much tasted like the tsunami roll, except without the spicy mayo. The sweet sauce overpowers everything.

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Curry Rice with Pork Cutlet $9.50

I expected the pork to come topped with a simple curry sauce but it turns out that the curry is served in a separate bowl. The curry itself has chunks of very tender meat, potatoes and carrots.

The pork is a generous piece coated with panko and deep fried. It was a little tough but seasoned well and tasted good with the curry sauce. The curry was thick, salty w barely any heat. The little chunks of meat were nice and tender, with soft carrots and potatoes.

Side salad that came with the curry that none of us tried because it didn’t look too appetising. The rice also came with miso soup but it was not very good. Tasted mostly of bonito and not much miso at all.

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Chirashi Deluxe $19.50

Sake (Salmon), Unagi (Eel), Hamachi (Yellowtail), Maguro (BluefinTuna), Ebi (Shrimp), Tamago (Sweet Egg), Ikura (Salmon roe), Tako (Octopus) & Ika (Squid) & Uni (Sea urchin)

The sake, hamachi and maguro were ok. Not the freshest but taste fine. I was indifferent to the tobiko, tako or squid. The sea urchin was actually quite bad; a lot slimier and tasted a tad off. The tamago was a little blah… the grey colouring to it kinda put me off. Overall, a total disappointment for $19.50.

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Total Damage: $78 (including tax & tip)

Personal Rating: 2.75 out of 5 (Pretty average)

I was not very impressed with the restaurant as a whole. Service was ok, but almost a tad abrasive and chaotic. We were seated on the upper floor where there is only 3 tables and servers were only there to drop off food/bill. A couple times customers were sent upstairs to tables that was still occupied.

Food was mediocre at best… I thought the prices were reasonable for the quality of food. It was still cheaper than my favourite places but the food was not very good… I did notice that most tables had bento boxes – their combination dinners are great values – priced well, good portions with a lot of different variations so there is something for everyone.

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Hotaru Japanese Restaurant

33 E 3rd Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94401

(650) 343 1152

Hotaru Japanese on Urbanspoon

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