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Wasabi Sabi

Neighbourhood: River Heights
1360 Taylor Ave
Phone: (204) 415-7938
Entrees: $14-$50

It’s hard to believe sushi was once considered uncharted territory, suitable only for the most adventurous foodie. But finding quality sushi nowadays is a simple enough endeavour with restaurants popping up everywhere from shopping malls to strip malls. Amidst the city’s Japanese craze, the Wasabi brand of restaurants consistently stands apart from the mainstream. They’ve been a leader in offering innovative, cutting-edge dishes. Owners William Wong and Chef Cho Venevongsa’s newest venture, Wasabi Sabi, builds on that distinction.

A hip lounge replete with plush sofas and space age light fixtures gives way to a sleek dining room decorated with trendy banquettes, dark wood and glossy black tiles. Japanese spirit is infused into the contemporary environment with floor-to-ceiling cut outs of cherry blossoms and motion-blurred photo murals of Tokyo streetscapes. A row of tables facing the bustling open kitchen offers prime seating for those wanting to catch a glimpse of the action.

There are plenty of Wasabi signatures still on the menu, and we were eager to tuck into some of the new creations, all designed for sharing.

Bluepoint oysters on the half shell taste as though they are plucked straight from the sea that day. Served atop a mountain of shaved ice, the succulent molluscs are so tender and delicate they melt on the tongue. Adding a few drops of citrus yuzu sauce subtly enhances their saltiness.

While you may have been told to never to play with your food, ishiyaki defies that notion. A blue flame flickers inside a heavy pot etched with Japanese markings, heating a thick stone disc used to cook slices of meat or fish. The kobe beef’s 50/50 marbling ratio gives the flesh depth and fills the mouth with buttery richness. The clean flavour of big eyed tuna is elegantly paired with nutty sesame dipping sauce. Both are best enjoyed rare and need only seconds to sizzle.

The sushi tortilla is a clever hybrid of cuisines. A tortilla shell is fried flaky and painted with a sweet and spicy chile glaze. The silken texture of ruby-hued tuna slices is paired with wedges of creamy avocado. Watercress punctuates the mellow flavours with satisfying bite.

A strong line-up of small plates is featured on the menu and each is beautifully presented and expertly flavoured. Slices of velvety king salmon carpaccio are drizzled with sour citrus soy and creamy wasabi mayonnaise. Crispy slices of fried garlic top it off. The mix of tart and sweet is perfect. Kushi yaki skewers offer small bites of fried meats or seafood and the scallops are a standout. A pork belly wrapping offers lightly salted complement to the sea creature’s natural sweetness.

The list of Wasabi Sabi’s maki creations reflect cutting-edge innovation. The sweety beety roll harmonizes sweet, crunchy beets, tangy cream cheese and peppery arugula. The richness of zesty mayo and tempura battered prawn is contrasted with fresh bites of sweet fruit in the mango tango roll. The signature volcano roll is the Japanese version of comfort food. A stack of rolls filled with candy-like barbequed eel erupts with a spicy cream sauce punctuated with flecks of chopped scallops and calamari. The tower is then broiled and served warm.

Wasabi Sabi is open Mon-Sat 11:30 am-10:30 pm and Sun 5 pm-10 pm.

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