* Prices may differ from that shown
Wasabi is a Sushi fast food restaurant. According to the website, there are about 30 branches in London, mostly in the City. There are other branches across the UK, but I assume these will be located in big city centres to appeal to the lunch break crowd. The term wasabi is the name of the Japanese horseradish sauce traditionally eaten with sushi. Personally, I don't like it, so I avoid it.
I love sushi, but don't like the high prices. I work in Central London and can spend £10 in the sushi restaurants near work. Needless to say, I can't afford to eat it very often.
This is what I love about Wasabi - the prices. You can pick up ready made sets or make up you own,so you have more control of the costs.
The stores are very minimalist, there are refrigerated open units for sushi and then a hot unit for noodles and rice. If you are going for sushi, there are a number of pre made packs, alternatively, you can make up your own. They provide little trays for you to pick your own individually wrapped packs of sushi. Most are £1-£2 for two pieces and prices are clearly marked. This means you can control how much you spend and aren't stuck with something you don't like. When you go to the till, you can buy extras like sachets of soy sauce, pickled ginger and the famous wasabi. Sachets are 5p each, I believe they should be free, but you can't have everything. They also sell pre cooked boxes of noodles and rice for £5.50, as well as soup noodles and a buffet style counter for a similar price.
Many stores have a small seating area, if you want to eat in. My local store have rammed the tables into the smallest spaces possible, so if you want to eat in peace, find somewhere else, as the store is really busy, the tables are really close together and you will have people walking past you all the time.
I love the fact that I can buy individual packs of sushi for £1. I sometimes stop in for a quick snack on Tuesday home if I am feeling peckish. It is also good for newbies to sushi, who aren't sure what to try.
The only downside is the packaging. Each piece of sushi is wrapped individually, which means individually unwrapping and being surrounded by a sea of wrappers at the end. You really feel like you've earned your lunch by the time you've unwrapped all the packaging.
i bought the seaweed salad take away from Victoria station. I stopped eating it half way as I didn't feel right. 5 minutes later I threw the whole thing up. I think the edamame beans were good but the seaweed wasn't. I have had other experiences with Wasabi - too much salt instead of real seasoning and 1 other mediocre experiences. My friend has a similar feeling which is a shame. Japanese tend to pride themselves on quality and do value the freshness of food. I am not sure about Wasabi.
Like the other reviewer I have been poisoned by eating at Wasabi. I purchased cooked tuna and cooked chicken rolls and 8 hours later ended up in excruciating pain. After 1 day of it seemingly getting worse, and given that I am 5 months pregnant, I went to hospital and took a day off work. After sharing my experience with 2 colleagues, I was amazed that they had both had similar experiences. This is not a place to eat unless you are fine about such risks.
I eat from Wasabi most weekdays, since 2009. The bento boxes are always fresh, and good value. There have a fantastic range. Like any Sushi Shop, if you've not been there before, you should probably try some simple dishes first, especially if you're used to Japanese Sushi, as this is quite different. Wasabi is a Korean chain, and they do things a bit differently.
They have a website at ~http://www.wasabi.uk.com/ showing their outlets, and menu.
My daily choice, unless it is every cold, is to have a Nigri set of salmon, tuna. I usually add some edamame, and a Californian teriyaki roll. the cost is about £7.
Some of their menu below
California Salmon Hand Roll
Chicken katsu roll
chicken spicy sauce
chicken sweet & sour
Chicken Teriyaki Hand Roll
Chicken Teriyaki Onigiri
Chicken teriyaki roll
Crabmeat & chives Hosomaki
Crabmeat Hand Roll
Cuttle fish Nigiri (Ika)
Eel & cucumber Hosomaki
Eel Nigiri (Unagi)
Fried prawn roll
Japanese Omelet (Tamago)
Mackerel Nigiri (Saba)
Masago & Cream cheese gunkan
Mozzarella & sundried tomato Hosomaki
Octopus Nigiri (Tako)
Peppered prawn roll
pork spicy sauce
Prawn mayo gunkan
Red Pepper Hosomaki
Salmon & Tobiko Roll
Salmon Nigiri (Sake)
Salmon roe gunkan (Ikura)
Salmon sesame gunkan
Seaweed salad gunkan
Shrimp Nigiri (Ebi)
Smoked Salmon & chive hosomaki
Smoked Salmon Nigiri
Spicy salmon gunkan
Spicy Salmon Roll
Spicy tuna roll
Sweet Shrimp Nigiri (Amaebi)
Tempura Prawn Hand Roll
Tobiko & Cucumber gunkan
Tobiko(Flying fish roe) & Cucumber Hosomaki
Tuna mustard Onigiri
Tuna Nigiri (Maguro)
Tuna spring onion gunkan
Tuna& sweetcorn Roll
Wasabi tobiko rol
As a customer, I came to Wasabi store and paid good money for a Sushi box in good faith that it would be in a fresh and edible state. However, as it turns out upon eating it, I was left a few hours later feeling violently ill. Not only did I have to suffer the indignity and unpleasantness of being sick at both ends, I also had to take time off from work, which was a huge inconvenience and cost for both me and my employer.
I have contacted Wasabi and told them all about what happened and also supplied them with all documents needed (including ambulance report) for them to start an investigation. I have had to liase with and chase them up far too many times for my liking, just to get an outcome on a situation that should never have occurred in the first place (if you had the appropriate quality control measures set in place). And at the end I have been offered a voucher for £20 to enjoy some more poisonous sushi. Thanks but no thanks.
I am not sure how Wasabi stores can ensure that incidents such as the one I encountered are mitigated in the future given that you seemingly don't label their products with the date and the time they were made (which I imagine is a risky strategy especially when serving raw fish and rice, two ingredients with proven health risks). I am sure that it is safe to assume that most other reputable stores have clear procedures in place on this front I.e. any stock that is more than a couple of hours old / or not kept in cool conditions is taken off the shelves immediately?!?
BIG ON JAPAN
There used to be a time when sushi and bento were considered too exotic for all but the most adventurous Western palates. When I first started out as a young lawyer in the City, the only way you could get Japanese food for lunch was to hunt out dedicated restaurants and sushi bars tucked away in obscure corners of town. In my case, that meant either a trip to Moshi Moshi Sushi - a conveyor belt style establishment hidden behind Liverpool Street Station - or for a more involved, traditional sit down meal at an independent family run eatery. In both cases, the experience of locating these places was as hard as finding the means to pay for them.
Happily, with the advent of the Yo! Sushi and Sartori chains, and the adoption of pre-packed sushi in high street supermarkets like M&S, Waitrose and Tesco (and to a lesser extent, noodle bars like Wagamama), Japanese food in general (and sushi in particular) has long ceased to become the exclusive province of moneyed businessmen on expense accounts. However, until recently, accessibility came at the not inconsiderable cost of quality, but a new chain has emerged on the streets of the City of London that aims to bring affordable, takeaway sushi (and bento) of a decent standard to the masses. That chain is Wasabi.
RAW FISH? FOR LUNCH?
Mention sushi and you will invariably get a wide range of reactions - from abject horror and disgust to sheer delight. There aren't many accessible "foreign" foods that polarise Westerners to such a degree. The idea of eating raw fish seems too much of a conceptual hurdle for many people, even if the same person is completely at home with smoked salmon or Parma ham (both are also raw meat, albeit cured). However, properly (and freshly) done, there are few convenient lunchtime alternatives that can offer the healthy eating and nutritive value of sushi (low in fat, high in protein, complex carbohydrates and chock full of Omega 3 and minerals).
Sushi itself is a general term that covers various different types of preparations, all of which, in one form or another, use vinegar-flavoured sticky rice as a base. The most popular forms are nigiri (thinly sliced raw fish on a shaped and cooked rice base), hosomaki (sushi rice, plus ingredient, rolled in a thin layer of dried, edible seaweed, called "nori") and uramaki (the rice is on the outside, usually covered in sesame seed, with the sushi rice and ingredients on the inside - think California roll).
A BIT ABOUT THE CHAIN
The Wasabi chain, which has around twelve branches scattered across the business districts of London (ex. Canary Wharf, Fleet Street, Finsbury Pavement, Waterloo & Victoria Stations) offers both ready-made sushi and bento (rice, fish/meat, and vegetables arranged In a single takeaway box). The name of the chain comes from the hot green and strongly flavoured garnish usually served with sushi, which is also sometimes known as "Japanese horseradish" (although the way it gets up the nose and into the sinuses, it's more akin to English mustard). More detail about their locations, menu and a short history can be found on their website at: www.wasabi.uk.com
HOW DOES IT WORK?
I consistently use three of their outlets (they can't really be called restaurants as they have very limited seating space - similar to Pret-a-Manger in style) and each has a very similar layout. The design is fairly minimalist and industrial in feel. As you enter, there will be a series of large, open chiller cabinets with pieces of sushi individually wrapped in plastic and set out on the shelves (nigiri and uramaki are wrapped singly, whereas hosomaki - the smaller rolls, are wrapped two by two).
If you are after hot food, the bento bar is against the back wall, near the cash registers, and is manned by the (usually) Japanese staff. There is a wide selection of cooked Japanese meat and fish specialities (ex. teriyaki, yakisoba, katsu and yakitori), noodles, miso soup and vegetables, and you simply queue and ask for what you want, which is then made up for you.
For sushi lovers, you take a cardboard tray from a rack near the entrance and select the pieces of sushi you want, filling up the tray as you go along. Pieces of sushi can be bought singly, but a modest discount is offered for buying two pieces at a time. Typically, you will find around twenty varieties displayed, and they are repeated randomly throughout the cabinets to allow the lunchtime crown quick and convenient access. What you see is strictly what you get - with the exception of hand-rolled sushi available at the bento bar, sushi is not made to order.
Amongst all the raw fish, the less adventurous palate is catered for with Westernised favourites like tuna sweetcorn sushi and California rolls, as well as vegetable hosomaki (i.e. cucumber and red pepper fillings instead of fish, and patently non-Japanese ingredients like sundried tomato and mozzarella). A selection of soft drinks (and a few Japanese specialities like Calpico and Green Tea) are also available.
Once you are happy with your selection, you queue up to pay. Wasabi can get very busy during the lunchtime rush hour (around noon to 2pm) and queues out the door are not unheard of. However, service is usually quite fast and I have never waited for more than four or five minutes. Condiments are not free - a small charge of 5p per sachet is made for wasabi, gari (ginger pickle) and soy sauce, all of which are available in front of the tills.
You will be asked whether you want to eat-in or take-out, but as I have never bothered sticking around, I don't know if there is a VAT surcharge for using the small number of tables and chairs provided. Your sushi is packed in a plastic bag with chopsticks and napkins. If you bought soy sauce, a small plastic container is provided for you to dispense it into. Most major credit and debit cards are accepted.
QUALITY & COST
As mentioned earlier, the sacrifice you generally make for cheap and quick sushi is generally the reduction in its quality. The food at Wasabi is no exception, but that said, it is a sacrifice that I am perfectly happy to make. A typical tray of sushi (for me, that's two salmon nigiri, two tuna nigiri, and four each of tuna, salmon and crabstick hosomaki) makes a substantial lunch and comes to around £5, including the condiments. Likewise, a bento box goes for between £4 and £5. To be honest, I go for the sushi, so don't feel qualified to comment on the bento selection.
The sushi is individually wrapped (by imported sushi robots - I kid you not!), keeping it sealed and fresh and stopping the sushi rice from drying out. It's fast and convenient, but perhaps not best suited to eating on the go. The wrapper can be a bit of a pain to get off, so the food is best taken back to the office or a park bench, especially if you plan to use provided chopsticks, the garnishes and the soy sauce for dipping.
The prices charged are fairly similar to what you would expect to pay for an equivalent tray of sushi at M&S, and less than a third of the price of a similar selection at Yo! Sushi. In my estimation, the freedom of choice, the freshness of the ingredients and the significant improvement in quality over their supermarket equivalents makes Wasabi sushi excellent value. The food is made fresh daily and turnover ensures that what is put out in the chillers has not been hanging about too long. Anything not used is thrown away at the end of the day.
My only niggle is not with the food - it's with the packaging. At the end of a meal - between the tray, bag, wrappers, sachets and used chopsticks, there seems to be a pretty big pile of waste, some of which can be recycled, but some which can't (the abundant plastic sushi wrappers being the main offender). This seems a disappointing oversight in an otherwise slick operation.
Wasabi's full menu is available on their web site - the address for which is set out above, but, as mentioned, not all branches will have all of the options available. However, without necessarily descending into a review of their web-site, you can also place advance orders for delivery or collection on-line (or by telephone) from selected branches. If a delivery service is offered, choosing the branch to order from (for instance, Finsbury Pavement) will bring up a list of the streets in the area they deliver to. I haven't yet used this service, so can't comment on efficiency.
All in all, Wasabi provides and excellent new entry into the very crowded lunchtime shopper/office worker market, providing fast food of good quality at affordable prices (a rarity for decent sushi). With a newly opened establishment at Waterloo Station, late night returns home from town just became a lot more interesting. Fortunately, I am also blessed with one very near my new place of work, which I plan to use at least once or twice a week.
Note: As with other reviews for Wasabi, this review covers the shops, not the on-line service, as a separate category has not been created by DooYoo for the "cafe". 8^)
© Hishyeness 2010
Firstly, my apologies for the awkward placing of this review. My review is for the Wasabi chain as a high street dining venue and takeaway. It's not possible to suggest an item that's already on Dooyoo, so it will need to remain under the heading of an online business (which it probably isn't for most people).
The Wasabi chain is based in London, although I believe that there may be a couple of branches in other large English cities. Their website, www.wasabi.uk.com, is somewhat poorly laid out and I have to say that I find it less than intuitive to navigate to discover extra information.
They offer a very generous selection of freshly prepared and affordable Japanese takeaway food at reasonable prices (hot meals, bento boxes, sushi) and the lunchtime queue at my local branch (Victoria Street) often snakes in a double line inside the store before going out the door into a secondary line of 10+ customers! I'm usually in the mood for a cold bento box and manage to 'skip' the queue, but the appeal of their hot options is easy to understand, particularly in winter.
It seems that new locations spring up almost weekly for this fun Japanese chain in London. As well as the Victoria Street branches, they have locations at Embankment, Fleet Street, Oxford Street, Piccadilly and the O2, among others. The restaurant format (everything is pre-prepared behind the scenes) means that a Wasabi outlet can be run in even very small spaces as long as they have suitable kitchen space nearby.
Wasabi offer a tasty selection, largely drawn from the following:
Nigiri - £1-1.70 (sold as pairs) - Tasty sushi toppings served on a block of sweetish sushi rice (eel, salmon, egg, mackerel etc.)
Hosomaki and Futomaki - £1-1.70 (sold as pairs) - Small and large rolled sushi between me and you, stuffed with delicious ingredients including tuna, avocado, chicken katsu (panko breadcrumb covered fried chicken) and my favourite, tobiko (flying fish roe!)
Gunkan - £1.50-1.70 (sold as pairs) - Traditional rounded sushi served with a wrapping of seaweed round the edge which holds in a delicious topping such as crabmeat or salmon roe (possibly the most flavoursome substance ever?)
Hand rolls and Onigiri - £1-1.95 - Fancy, hand crafted seaweed cones with fresh and fragrant fillings and tasty rice balls/pouches, respectively. A squishy rice ball with a little bonito (shredded dried tuna) lurking at its heart is just the thing to fill you up in the afternoon.
Hot dishes and bento boxes - £1-6 - Probably their most popular offerings are the hot meals, which is a shame, as they seem far less interesting to me than sushi. As well as various incarnations of noodles, they offer hot miso soup, crunchy dishes such as chicken katsu and a range of curried meals.
The boxed selections, on the other hand are fantastic value - with a range of different items and a few vegetarian selections of sushi, noodles and salads. My 'usual' for a Friday consists of several large chunks of tofu coated in crunchy onions with edamame beans, a nest of wholemeal soba noodles, a shredded carrot salad with a citrus dressing and a few different types of rice balls with coatings such as toasted black sesame seeds.
It doesn't strike me as too traditionally Japanese (it seems to be a hybrid of Japanese cuisine and European salad tastes), but it's very nutritious, a healthy vegetarian choice, filling and very reasonable for £4.50. I'd struggle to get a McDonalds for that in central London and I'd much rather be eating a selection of fresh vegetables and fragrant Japanese yummies than stuffing my face with chips and poor quality hamburgers which go straight to the belly!
*Service and eating in*
I'm not going to lie and say that the service in Wasabi is all happy laughing elves and sparkling rainbows. They're a business, a very busy one at that and the service (while perhaps a little rushed) is always polite and courteous. If you expect a wonderful dining experience with attentive servers I suggest you try going somewhere where you're planning on spending more than a fiver for your vittles.
The 'restaurant' aspect of the chain (as it is), seems to consist of essentially sitting in with your takeaway food. That said, they're always horrendously busy when I'm passing and I haven't had a chance to experience it for myself.
*Why I like Wasabi*
Like my recent review for Yo! Sushi, the Wasabi chain is great as it introduces Londoners to more exotic food that is good for them, delicious and far healthier than most of the other options. I will greatly miss this as a lunchtime chain when I end up moving home to Scotland.
As with Yo! Sushi, I'm not trying to imply that this is the best place for sushi in the capital - simply a fun choice for hungry workers and shoppers that won't stretch their wallets or their stomachs too much.
I'm certainly hooked - long may their success continue. If you're in and around London and haven't tried it already - go on, you've got nothing to lose but your fear of raw fish! With all due respect I suggest that you take the previous review with a pinch of salt - or should that be soy sauce? It seems to have been based on one negative experience of two specific hot dishes, as opposed to repeat custom at a selection of Wasabi branches.
There are 4 types of restaurants.
1. Survive on presentation of food and interiors
2. Rely on Good food
3. Neither pays attention to food nor its presentation
4. Gets food quality and presentation right.
I put wasabi in first category.
The presentation of food item is very good. With chick modern interior and very responsive staff, it looks like take-away version of Wagamama.
Only time I had worse food than this was in some curry house in Fort William, Scotland. Wasabi was second worst !!
I visited Wasabi take-away in Canary Wharf and ordered some noodles and tofu-curry. I thought it is pick-and-mix for £4. But they charged me £4 for noodles and another £4 for spoon of tofu curry. I think this is very expensive for a take-away.
The noodles were like rubber and I could not eat them. Tofu curry was like ready made mashroom curry from Tesco with very salty and strong taste. I had to throw the whole content in to the bin and went next door in Pret to get some sandwiches.
Not sure what their focus of the business is, but they got the location right. As lots of overpaid bankers queue up to eat this kind of food just because it is the most expensive type and it looks cool to carry wasabi take-away.