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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wa Sushi & Bistro: Sea Urchin + Truffle Oil = Oishii

I must say I was suspicious of a sushi place that called itself Wa Sushi & Bistro. Bistro? Does that mean the menu will feature weird concoctions that veer far away from the purist sushi that I love and cherish? But it is in my 'hood so we decided to try it (and also contribute to the environment by walking).

The short-end of it is that the sushi was way overpriced for what it was. Some of the sushi was not bad, but the price tags weren't justified by the quality of the fish.

The biggest and perhaps sole revelation was having uni (sea urchin) sushi drizzled with truffle oil, which gave it a very interesting flavor combo that worked very well. At first glance, I didn't like the uni didn't come wrapped in seaweed like most of the other sushi joints.

There's something to be said for the texture mix of crunchy seaweed, warm rice topped with the creamiest and buttery uni. But I didn't get this here. It was a "naked" sushi, with no seaweed. As I was about to eat it, I realized it had an interesting aroma and realized it was truffle oil. This place, I must say, is a tad truffle oil-happy. With uni, at least, it worked. But more on that later.

The other sushi, including toro (fatty tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), albacore tuna and scallop were average to above average. The fish ok but my biggest beef with them was the craftsmanship. Yes, it does make a difference to get your sushi from a master or not. Sure, quality and freshness of the fish matter, but what if the freshest, best quality fish weren't cut properly and placed on top of some rice? It really alters the experience dramatically. At Wa, the fish was this big blob of an anemic rectangular-shaped thing that just didn't easily sit atop the rice. Some might say they like that because it's more bang for their buck, but it was truly cumbersome to eat (not easily pop-able in one morsel) and even when you're chewing it, it was a hassle.

The other one I liked was the sweet shrimp, which was very fresh and unlike the others, its size wasn't overwhelmingly massive as the other sushi. Actually, it was one shrimp turned into two pieces of sushi and two fishheads that were promptly fried and disappeared into our mouths. The shrimp flesh was sweet indeed and soft in texture. Truly a winner.

The one I had the biggest problem with was the fatty tuna sashimi pieces drizzled in truffle oil. Perhaps it was the fact that message boards raved about how amazing this dish was. But unlike the sea urchin, tuna, especially raw fatty tuna (what a waste!), was so clashing with the truffle oil that had such a potent smell and flavor that it not only overpowered the delicate sashimi but also didn't mesh with the tuna flavor at all.

The little red peppercorns didn't add much to the mix. All in all, not a good match but somehow got rave reviews. Perhaps all a matter of preference. It just didn't taste good to me.

I truly believe that such prized parts of the tuna such as fatty tuna should be consumed as they are. All manner of sauces and oils just distract from the essence of the truly amazing flavor of the fish.

You already know how I feel about fatty tuna, especially at a place like Hiko. Forget about it. It's my favorite sushi by far.

I lament that this tuna was not as good as Hiko and it also somewhat corrupted the purity of the fish by mangling it with truffle oil and other stuff that didn't enhance, in my opinion.

Not sure I'll be returning, when I know I could get far better sushi nearby at Jinpachi or drive farther to my trusty Hiko, which someone I know recently went on my recommendation and now can't get enough of it.

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