In Japanese, Hajimari (始まり) means “beginning,” and for Chef/Owner Thomas Talley, it was the perfect name for his restaurant. With a name that’s half American and half Japanese, The Hajimari is a hybrid of steak and sushi with home-grown and home raised notes throughout each dish, making it a popular spot for locals near the Broadway area.

Thomas says proudly:  “Once you taste the food, you’re locked,” and I’m locked! The restaurant, located inside of the Ritz hotel, is an intimate dining area adorned with large windows bringing in sunlight. It is a place of gourmet food at a reasonable price. Their food is all fresh, never processed. The restaurant will work with customers who have food allergies or food intolerances upon request.

Potato Chips & Gouda Cheese Dip

I won’t turn down cheese dip, ever, and if I could bring home gallons of the gouda cheese dip, I would. Thomas comes in every morning to hand pick, peel, season and fry the potatoes for this appetizer. The chips are delicate:  light and thin enough to melt in your mouth but crisp enough to scoop up the perfectly paired, ooey-gooey gouda cheese dip that is warm and creamy.

The seasoning of the chips with the sharp yet sweet flavor of the gouda cheese is the perfect marriage of an appetizer. If cheese dip isn’t your thing, don’t hesitate to ask for something that fits with your pallet. Dylan, one of the servers brought out an additional dip that was light and fluffy with the tang of mayonnaise that brightened my senses with garlic and zesty spices.

The Johnathan

Named after one of Thomas’ regular customers, The Jonathan is a classic roll for any sushi lover and a GREAT choice for first-time sushi eaters.

This perfectly packed roll comes with rice, crisp asparagus, tender avocado, Hamachi (also known as yellowtail fish), and their signature Hajimari sauce. This roll is bright with raw, tangy flavor and texture from rice seasoned with lemon juice and their in-house rice vinegar to the sweet umami and velvety bourbon Hajimari sauce drizzled on top. The asparagus is crisp and clean with earthy undertones and the yellowtail is soft and buttery. This is sushi to crave and indulge in.

Ribeye Sandwich

When this dish came out, the first thing I noticed about it was the beautiful aroma of the seasoned grilled ribeye. It was presented on a lightly toasted ciabatta bun hugging together strips of grilled, medium-rare ribeye, sliced caramelized onion, pops of pickle, a light smear of mayo glued together with a thick, melted slice of smoked gouda cheese. Every bite had an explosion of tastes and textures that were expertly paired together.  

 The asparagus as my side was sautéed in the holy trinity: butter, garlic, and salt. A simple seasoning that only adds a breath of freshness to the savory, caramelized in-depth flavors of this sandwich.

Pork Chop with Dynamite Shrimp & Green Beans

The last dish I tried at The Hajimari was the pork chop. My mouth still waters as I think of this dish! From start to finish with this dish I could not get enough of.  Juicy and full of flavor, this 13 oz grilled pork chop was in every single bite. The pork chop was seared to lock in all the flavors and grilled with perfect diamond grill marks to show the time and care it takes to create and season such a beautiful cut of pork. 

Though the pork chop is the choir of flavor, the dynamite shrimp also hold their own. This spicy tempura fried shrimp shines with bold, powerful flavors of chili powder and ichimi that bring a clean euphoria tingling sensation of heat. The airy, golden crunch of the spicy tempura being dipped into sweet chili sauce builds the complexity of the spice flavors but also adds soft sweet notes in every bite. The green beans are cooked in a home-style comfort way with salt, butter, and pepper with raw grill flavors from the cast-iron skillet. Simple perfection in this pork chop dish.

If you see yourself downtown looking for high-end cuisine, flavors for everyone, and reasonably priced, The Hajimari is the place to begin.

I would like to thank Hajimari for having me, as well as our sponsor, The Clemens Fine Arts Center.  The Clemens Fine Arts Center has been connecting communities with the arts for over 50 years. They are planning our next season and will save your seat!  Visit artsinfocus.org for more information.