Posted by: Sean Carter | August 9, 2013

#149: Wasabi Asia Bistro & Sushi Bar

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Tonight my mom and I set out to try Asian Bliss only to find that they had a planned closure for this exact day.  I suggested this new sushi joint that recently opened in the Crush 29 center and we met up there instead.  This is a small local chain with a location in Citrus Heights and one in Folsom.  Roseville is their third and newest.  At first glance when you walk in it’s got a similar vibe to most of the modern sushi places in the region.  Money went into this place and it looks very nice.  After a moment we started to notice things like the light fixtures which were very unique.  There was a glass tray (which I didn’t get a photo of) on the front counter was really cool; take a moment and check it out if you ever come here.  Aside from some of these very visually interesting touches it’s fairly straightforward.  The place is divided into two sections.  The front half is all tables.  Past a shoulder-high wall is the sushi bar area and raised bar/pub type tables.  The sushi bar is a cube with 3 accessible sides.  The 4th is an opening to the kitchen.  Even this has a nice light feature built into the side.

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We were greeted immediately upon entering (at about 5:30PM) and were asked if we wanted dinner or happy hour.  When asked what the difference was she told us that happy hour has a different menu and seating.  I asked to see that menu and she grabbed one from the bar.  It was quite a small selection, just one long page.  We decided to do the full dinner and we were seated in the front section.  The bar area was fairly busy throughout our entire visit.  Meanwhile, the front only ever had 2-3 tables seated.  The dinner menu (PDF) is HUGE.  The pages themselves were big, I think they may have been 11×17.  Most had dense, small font-sized white text filling the page.  Others had lots of excellent photos.  They have a noticeably larger selection of just about everything compared to other sushi places in the area.  In addition to the sushi offerings you’ll see that they have entirely additional sections like teppanyaki (think Benihana), though they must prepare those in the kitchen rather than in front of the customers as there were no grills that I could see.

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For drinks, they have a sizable beer selection and a wine list that dwarfs most restaurants in general.  My mom mentioned in particular how impressive it was in comparison to Blue Nami‘s comparatively puny offering.  She ordered a glass of wine while I went with a draught Sapporo.  These came out within a couple minutes.  My Sapporo was cold, crisp and refreshing.  I was quite overwhelmed by the menu.  I probably could have easily studied it for over 30 minutes before picking out the perfect items.  Instead, I skimmed around skipping huge sections of rolls (the roll section spans 4 pages, 2 of photos and 2 with walls of text.  I counted 132 individual rolls).  We decided to get an appetizer.  My mom picked out Bacon Scallops, Mixed Tempura, Stuffed Mushrooms and Lettuce Wraps as good options.  I narrowed it down and we eventually settled on the Bacon Scallops [bacon-wrapped scallops on skewers]($7).  She had already decided on the 49ers roll ([D.F. Shrimp, Snow Crab] Avocado, Scallop, Tobiko)[$11] and I wanted to try the Pancake Shrimp (Pan-fried Shrimp stuffed with Halibut, served in sweet Brown and White sauce)[$13].  I wanted to get one more roll and finally found the Super Rainbow ([D.F. Shrimp, Snow Crab, Spicy Tuna] Avocado, Tuna, Eel, Crab Leg, Tobiko, Onion and 4 pieces Spicy Lobster)[$16].  Ordering with out server was painless and quick.

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The time between ordering and the appetizer coming out was at least 10 minutes, looking at my photo times, but it didn’t feel like that at all.  There’s enough interesting stuff to look at as far a decoration/lighting, and on top of that they have 8 big, bright HDTVs on every wall (4 side by side in the sushi bar area alone), all on different channels.  Our waitress brought out little trays, one with wasabi/ginger, two regular sized plates, and a rectangular dish with the Bacon Scallops.  There were two skewers on this dish.  Each had onions, a mushroom and two bacon-wrapped scallops on it.  A brownish sauce had been drizzled over them and sesame seeds topped it all off.  These were awesome.  Every piece on the skewer was delicious.  The mushroom was great and the bacon was nice and crisp.  The scallop (I’m usually not one to order scallops) was just barely on the chewy side, but still very good.  The sauce was sweet with a little zip and a hint of teriyaki flavor to it.  I think the exact same sauce was on every other item we ordered.  I would definitely order these again.

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A short time after we had finished these, the main items started arriving.  She brought out the 49ers and Pancake Shrimp first, followed immediately by the Super Rainbow.  A couple minutes later, while we were still starting to dig into everything, a final little dish came out.  This was the 4 lobster pieces.  I actually didn’t realize they would be a separate thing.  The pancake shrimp was quite a display.  8 shrimp (or 16? There may have been two shrimp in each piece) were arranged around the edge of the plate with a bursting design of brown and white sauce in the middle.  These were just as great as the Bacon Scallops.  I didn’t actually taste the halibut in it, but you could see it and feel the texture briefly in the initial bite.  The shrimp and sauce (depending how much you dipped) were 90% of the taste.  As I said, I think the brown sauce in this was the same as was on the Bacon Scallops.  Overall, very tasty.

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The two rolls were somewhat similar in that they both had deep fried shrimp, snow crab, avocado and tobiko.  The biggest visual difference was scallops vs tuna laid over-top each one.  The scallops were big slices.  Unlike the appetizer these were perfectly tender.  My roll had a lot of the same flavors, but on top had a touch of heat at the end from the spicy tuna and a rich, savory note from the eel, which I never actually saw.  Each roll had a nice crunch from the shrimp inside.  Again, the sweet brown sauce was applied to each one.  Finally, the Spicy Lobster pieces.  These weren’t nearly as spicy as I expected.  They were just slightly more so than the Super Rainbow.  Whatever sauce they were served in was intensely flavorful and masked any trace of the lobster itself.  The texture was definitely right and I bit one in half revealing, surprise, a chunk of lobster meat with a bit of pink/red on the edges!  These were good, though I could have done without them and been happier with a slight price decrease on the roll.

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Speaking of prices, that’s pretty much the only disadvantage Wasabi has over Blue Nami (just using them in particular as an example since they’re right across the street)  Overall the prices are noticeably higher for many things.  Just looking at the rolls, the average price is around $12 at Wasabi and $7 at Blue Nami.  Both have much higher priced, fantastical rolls.  These are the most noticeable price differences but overall most things look slightly more expensive when compared item to item.  If this were Roseville’s only top-notch sushi place it would be one thing, but we have an abundance of excellent sushi to choose from, so it’s hard not to look at the prices and think, eh, lets just go across the street.  On the other hand, Blue Nami often has a wait during peak hours.  After 6PM on a Friday night Wasabi still had plenty of empty tables.  For standard sushi items I recommend sticking to our known-good and relatively cheaper sushi restaurants.  Wasabi has a lot more to offer though, and it’s absolutely worth checking them out to try some of those more specialized items.

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