November 2, 2011
Wasabi offers spicy gems on a menu stuffed with sushi rolls
By Lesli J. Neilson
Draper Opening a restaurant is a risky proposition. Opening one among dozens of chain eateries is downright scary. But thats just what Wasabi has done: plopped itself amid the Applebees, Goodwood Barbecue Cos., Jimmy Johns and dozens of others that line 12300 South just east of Interstate 15.
At first glance, the look of Wasabi is deceiving. Between a Wing Nutz and photography studio, you enter the narrow space thats done in dark tones with a wall covered with a striking panorama of Tokyo. Add two plasma TVs, a sleek sushi bar, concrete floor and a curious model wooden yacht, and youve got an edgy space that looks like it could belong in downtown Salt Lake City rather than suburban Draper.
Along with the inviting décor, Wasabi chef-owner Jounghyun (James) Suk hopes his Japanese training in South Korea will set apart his sushi restaurant when diners get a taste of his seafood-centric creations.
Suk is definitely onto something when it comes to special rolls (8 pieces, $12.95-$15.95) and some appetizers ($1.75-$9.99), which have a penchant for being a bit spicy. Other parts of the menu can be unremarkable.
One of the more impressive rolls is the Mirage maki ($13.95), where tempura shrimp, avocado, crab, spicy tuna and cooked shrimp are rolled then bundled into aluminum foil, sprinkled with rum and set aflame. The result is a warmish roll that tastes crunchy, spicy, salty and creamy. Another unique roll is the kicky James maki ($12.95) with tuna, avocado, cilantro, jalapeño, tobiko and romaine lettuce wrapped in rice paper.
There also are a few state rolls: Utah ($12.95), Alaska ($12.95), New York ($12.95) and the Idaho ($14.95), which feature scallops, salmon, spicy tuna and smoked salmon with deep-fried potatoes, respectively. Other house rolls of which there are 29 to choose from cost from $4.50 to $14.50.
Im more of a purist and tend to prefer my fish naked (sashimi, 6 pieces: $10.95-$12.95) or nestled atop small bundles of wasabi-accented rice (nigiri, 2 pieces, $3.99-$5.50). A recent attractive plate of sashimi came with well-sliced salmon, escolar and yellowtail.
If Id have had a starving dinner companion, I would have considered the $29.95 boat. It comes with seaweed salad, miso soup for two which was a tad weak and light on the tofu 10 pieces of either sushi or sashimi and 10 pieces of rainbow roll. For large appetites, the $49.95 boat has squid salad, seaweed salad, miso soup for two, 10 pieces of sushi, 12 pieces of sashimi, a 10-piece rainbow roll and mochi ice cream (available in green tea, mango and, best-tasting of all, strawberry; a la carte, theyre $3.50).
Besides fish, the menu offers beef, chicken or salmon teriyaki ($7.50 at lunch; $12.95 at dinner); noodles (pan-fried yakisoba with beef, chicken or seafood ($9.95-$12.95); or udon in dashi broth ($6; $11.95). Bento boxes (lunch, $9.95; dinner, $12.95) are another way to go. Choose two from the choice of six rolls, teriyaki, tempura or sushi and sashimi, which also come with salad and rice.
Appetizers such as fried cubes of tofu in broth (agedashi tofu, $5.25), gyoza dumplings ($5.25) and shrimp ($7.50) and vegetable ($6.25) tempuras (which needed hotter oil or less crowding to curtail the greasy outcome on a recent visit) are for those who play it safe.
For risk-takers, there are mussel shooters ($5), two green-lip mussels cut into chunks with tobiko, ponzu and a spicy sauce; dynamite ($9.99), baked tuna, scallop, salmon, yellowtail, red snapper, crab and a spicy mayo; and pepper jack ($5), fried jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese and spicy tuna. The mussels look delicate in presentation but deliver bold flavors. The texture of the mussels stood up to the bite-popping roe, sweet ponzu followed by a spicy ending. The combination was genius.
Its clear by the oft-empty space, Wasabi is still in its infancy. Heres to hoping diners will forgo the chains and give this local restaurant a much-needed chance.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Poor
2 stars Average
3 stars Good
4 stars Excellent
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.