Let Me See That Sushi Roll
Wasabi, a restaurant in the Farragut area, opened on Wednesday, and I stopped by last night to test my agility and to play a rousing game of "Guess That Sushi Roll." This sleek restaurant is the second in the area to let diners pick premium-grade sushi from a moving belt, a popular concept in European dining spots. The place is so new that it's still waiting on a few crucial things like a liquor license and promised menu items like, say, fresh wasabi.
The restaurant features a carry-out area and room for only 35 diners, and tables don't turn over quickly. Though promised a 20-minute wait, we spent 40 hungry minutes waiting for two spaces to become available. Watching food float by untouched on the conveyor belt is a cruel trick to play on hungry diners!
Indeed, in such a small space, it's easy to watch everything that passes. The conveyor belt is a long, but narrow loop and diners can easily reach across it to nab plates on the other side. Chairs line one side of the belt, while four booths large enough for four people are set up against the other side. The set-up is not exactly group-friendly; it seems to me that it would've been possible to build out a bit further to seat more diners.
The color-coded dishes are priced between $2 and $6 dollars, but they usually only offer three pieces per plate. Some of the plates are dutifully labeled, but the majority of conveyor belt treasures are a mystery. I'd practically befriended the cucumber maki by its 40th go-round, but had yet to spot the elusive spicy tuna, even though our helpful waitress tried to describe it. Because we couldn't find our standard favorites, we tried several new types of sushi that we would not have considered otherwise. Given Wasabi's fine pedigree -- it's managed by a veteran of Kaz Sushi Bistro and presided over by a seasoned London sushi chef -- our adventures paid off. The fish was among the finest I've had in the area, and the salmon with herbs was quite delicious.
Price-wise, the bill can work for or against you depending on your eating habits. As tempting things pass by, it's natural to grab them, so the plates certainly stack up. Long after I was full, a plate of seared pepper-crusted beef tartare with spicy mustard passed by and I couldn't hold back. I know that in typical restaurants, I'm good with two rolls and a piece of sushi, but my dining companion and I grabbed at least eight plates last night and were mostly happy that we did.
Wasabi is only open until 9 and Mondays through Fridays. I recommend going on the later side to avoid the throngs of post-work diners. While I enjoy the occasional mealtime guessing game, I wouldn't wait another 40 minutes for the privilege.
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