Monday, October 6, 2008

Konichiwa, Wasabi!

Originally published in D-Tales here; see original post for pictures.

Last week I was able to check out the new Asian restaurant Wasabi inside the Park Shelton. The verdict's in: love it.

First of all, the d├ęcor. Polished granite floors, corrugated aluminum sheets on the walls (giving it a very urban chic-industrialized affect), dark-stained furniture, a very postmodern ambiance. I walked in and immediately felt like I was in one of those trendy/divey sushi joints in Manhattan (they're like 7-Elevens there) where trendy Wall Street people have power lunches but the dinner business is dead, save for carry-out and delivery orders placed by more trendy Wall Street people staying late at the office or who don't have enough time to cook at home. Totally felt that way.

Yes, I fell in love with it immediately.

Now, around here sushi is kind of like...well, it's like sushi. You can get it pretty much everywhere you go in some variety or another, whether you're at a high-end seafood restaurant with its own sushi bar (see: Mitchell's, Northern Lakes, et. al.) or at a high-end ultra-trendy ultra lounge that serves sushi (Corner Bar, Ignite) or at a high-end Asian-fusion restaurant with its own sushi bar (Mon Jin Lau, Chen Chow, et. al.), or at an ultra-trendy sushi-specific restaurant-cum-nightclub (Oslo, Ronin, Sakana, Crave). Even most area Krogers have their own in-house sushi chef (their to-go sushi is pretty tasty, too). Bottom line: sushi ain't that special. We're not in Tokyo anymore, Toto Hiro.

BTW: so how awesome is Heroes this season??? Sylar, going good, SRSLY????

Wasabi has a large offering of classic, regional, specialty, and vegetarian rolls, as well as sashimi (just the fish, ma'am) and nigiri sushi (wad of rice with the fish on top--easier for the smaller-mouthed to consume). In addition to this, they also have a full selection of Japanese and Korean entrees, which is something you don't see all that often in your higher-end pan-Asian restaurants or your run-of-the-mill pander-to-all-Asian local restaurants, often located in strip malls (places with names like Wok Inn, Dragon Phoenix, Peking Palace, Lee's Chop Suey, etc.).

I remember my first experience with Korean cuisine at Little Tree Sushi in Royal Oak...fried egg on top of a bowl of rice with some other undefined crap in it. Turns out, this is "Bimibab." And this is part of what I ordered this night. My friend and I also sampled the pork gyoza (deep-fried pork dumplings, dripping with peanut oil and that special gyoza sauce which I forget the name of but is usually made with soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil and is like liquid crack). From there, we moved on to the Spicy Scallop Roll (no wasabi needed here) and the specialty roll called "The Hulk," which was made with red snapper tempura, spicy shrimp, crab salad, and topped with seaweed salad on top to make it all green and Hulk-like. This one was fabulous; the flavors worked well together and the different textures provided a needed contrast and balance.

A future tip from my palate to yours is to always make sure your sushi rolls have some tempura-fried item inside. The biggest problem most people have with sushi isn't so much the flavor or the raw fish but the consistency...too much squish-factor will turn anyone off from future experimentation. Another tip, and this one's strictly a personal preference: stay the hell away from any roll made with cream cheese. THAT'S not sushi. It's not it's not it's not ohmygodjapanesepeoplewouldn'tputthathighcholesterolgarbageanywhereneartheirmouths it's not. It's good on bagels and that's it. Stop trying to put it in places it doesn't belong. That times two with bacon.

Since I am older and gastronimically braver, we also tried the Bimibab. Again: fried egg over rice with a bunch of other crap mixed in, but at least this time I knew what the other crap was. This isn't exactly the most flavorful dish (and being served luke-warm, a superior alternate preparation is to nuke the hell out of it and douse it in Korean hot paste), but it was good enough for what it was.

After this gross display of over-ordering, I had no room left for the tempura cheesecake I had eyeballed earlier, but I bet it's awesome.

And the green tea was served in a really pretty pomo pot, which also made me happy.

Would that pot be "pomo" or just simply "mo"? I can prattle on for hours about postmodernism in pop culture, but the whole interior design thing has me thrown off.

Overall: we now have a semi-authentic Japanese and Korean restaurant that looks high-end but has the price points of Lee's Chop Suey and also offers carry-out (perfect for the Park Shelton residents, who can pretend they live in a Manhattan high-rise if they never leave their building or stray further than the DIA) and delivery (for CCS and other unspecified Detroit locations). It is a non-smoking establishment that currently does not have a liquor license, though they're working on it. The food is good, the prices right, and the place is trendy without being all Hey-look-I'm-a-super-trendy-sushi-restaurant-and-I-bring-in-techno-DJs-at-night-to-show-you-how-trendy-I-am trendy.

Dining by D-Tales grade: B+