This week Japanese food chain Wasabi opened its doors in Cambridge for the first time, and the night before the grand opening TCS were invited down to savour some of the delights of the new menu.
Walking into Wasabi’s upstairs space, my guest and I were plied with pick and mix style sushi pots, plum tea and prosecco — though, needless to say, the last doesn't quite make it onto the final menu. Circling the room were a series of highly attentive servers delivering, like little sushi fairies, to our table maki, nigiri, and california rolls. At one point a server even rushed off to find my guest a kind of sushi that she had tried earlier that night — going off a rather vague description from my friend, she returned moments later with a whole tray of the stuff, earning Wasabi some brownie points for their attentive service.
The food itself however was at times slightly hit and miss. The classics of were strong, flavoursome and did not disappoint. All of the avocado dishes were particularly tasty; the fried prawn roll, which is one of their best sellers, went down a treat; and hot food dishes like the chicken katsu curry bento and spicy chicken yakisoba bento were also highlights. However, I remain unconvinced about the plethora of tuna and sweetcorn items on the menu, both the tuna and sweetcorn roll and tuna and mustard onigiri failed to hit the spot. Perhaps I’ve had too many disappointing tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches in my time to associate the taste with anything too positive, but it did just seem to fall slightly flat — as if Wasabi had tried too hard to tailor itself to the bland British palette, and thus lost a sense of authenticity.
Another place Wasabi falls down slightly is in its provision of Vegetarian food, which was lacking somewhat. My vegetarian guest noted on the night that if she didn’t like either avocado or tofu she would have been slightly stumped. Equally, some vegetarian dishes such as the seaweed gunkan left her less than impressed saying simply ‘say no to the seaweed roll’.
Yet, many of the more unusual things on the menu — and by ‘unusual’ I mean not plain Cucumber Hosomaki — really did satisfy the palette. The chicken teriyaki roll, crabmeat and avocado hosomaki, and surimi crabmeat and cucumber roll are definitely worth a try if you pop down to Wasabi at some point. Particularly, pleasant was also the Plum Tea which at £1.95 is pretty good value compared to the own brand drinks at some other chains. It must be said that compared to the like of Yo Sushi!, Wasabi really is fantastic value all around, and really tailors itself to the student market…with our somewhat restricted bank balances.
Overall, the atmosphere Wasabi have created at their new Petty Cury space alone is worth a visit. Fresh, calming and refreshing; Wasabi offer a diverse and varied range of food, which leaves you feeling full and satisfied, despite the light nature of the dishes. Wasabi is a favourite with many Londoners, and stepping inside one in the capital can often feel like a battle to the death for the last Yasai roll set with a stampede of hungry office workers; but the Cambridge branch, at least at the moment, feels like a pretty chilled and relaxed affair. Ultimately, it has to be said that Wasabi is well worth a try. Just remember not to eat yourself into a sushi coma.