Newest Review: ... 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 ... more
Well, it beats McDonalds into a cocked hat!
Member Name: edinburgher
Date: 03/09/09, updated on 04/09/09 (706 review reads)
Advantages: Affordable, freshly prepared, tasty Japanese takeaway food
Disadvantages: Maybe not overly authentic, very busy
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.
Summary: Wasabi offers a far more interesting lunch for Londoners at a fair price