Tuesday, 03 April 2007

I had some time to kill on my way to see Keb ‘Mo at the new Guthrie, so I decided to take in dinner at Wassbi Japanese Steak House and Sushi. It was kind of on a whim, and despite mixed reviews I had read in the local rags.

I can’t help but compare it to my all-time favorite, Origami, and unfortunately doesn’t quite stack up.

When it comes to sushi in the Twin Cities, everyone buys their fish from one of two wholesalers. It’s all flash frozen immediately after being caught and is almost more fresh than if you bought it at the dock. With this in mind, there are very few ways for one sushi joint to distinguish itself from the rest.

One of those ways, and in my mind the most important, is service. I sat at the sushi bar and the service was very attentive, both from my waitress and from the chef in front of me. Pretty much I didn’t want for anything very long. About the time I’d look up for the waitress, she’d be right there.

The second, for me at least, is ambiance. This could stand improvement. The entrance is not well labeled, and you end up coming in through the bar. That wouldn’t be so bad if the bar, and the aisle around it, were larger. Get a happy-hour crowd in there and restaurant patrons will have to fight their way in and out. Once seated, it’s not bad, but not outstanding either. Tables, chairs, the obligitory bamboo, but nothing spectacular. The metal chopsticks are a nice touch, however.

Lastly is presentation; this includes preparation of traditional staples (ebi and sake nigiri, California maki, and hamachi nigiri are my usual test subjects) as well as specialty dishes. Their spicy tuna roll was good, as was the shrimp, but again not out of this world.

In one of the reviews I had read previously, they mentioned the sauces (flavored mayonsise?) that garnished nearly every dish, but I didn’t experience it myself. Perhaps ordering al-a-cart clues them in, or maybe it’s only used on house specialties. Either way, I was spared — I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to my sushi. .

Prices were reasonable, about $6 for a standard maki and roughly $3 for a single nigiri. Specialty rolls were all $10 or more. Basically the same as every other sushi place in town.

All in all Wasabi was decent enough to go back if you want someplace close to the Guthrie before a show. Personally I’ll stick with Origami for my regular sushi haunt. Their service and food are always impeccable and the ambiance, especially at the sushi bar, is first rate.

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