Goldie is out on the town again! It has been a while since I posted last but I am ready to write! (Get ready for a long one)
The last two years have been pretty major for me — getting used to post-graduate life, learning to manage my time and money better, and of course learning to prioritize what’s important in life and determine my life goals. People say college is really when you become who you are, but I think that after college is really when you are shaped into the adult you will become. I don’t disagree that there is some sort of self-discovery that occurs in college, but after you graduate and are out of the college community, you have more time to yourself and to reflect about who you really are without others influencing who you should become. With that, adjusting to normal life again becomes a little more hectic alongside learning how to manage relationships in a non-school environment as well as your financials and health. Granted, it didn’t really take me the whole two years to get on my feet (honestly, I kind of forgot about this project), but I definitely needed to take a step away to figure out if this was something I really even wanted to invest time in, period. Since then, I’ve definitely been discovering places of interest (and I think even my taste buds have matured) and have even posted some yelp.com reviews. Then, I figured that if I was reviewing restaurants (among other things) I might as well start blogging again! And here I am! The first time around I feel like it was definitely forced, but this time I really hope to be able to share my experiences in a more casual and genuine way. But of course, as a disclaimer, I do love eating and I love good food but I am in no way involved in the restaurant community or am a chef. Also, I may not be the best at writing but I can assure you that I will try to relay my feelings and experiences in a way that you can relate!
NOTE: You may notice that I probably will be posting about restaurants I have already visited in the future.
As some of you may or may not remember, my boyfriend lives nearby in Boston so I frequent there a lot. Over the last few months, I have also had the luxury of traveling a little more for both work and leisure. Recently, at the beginning of April, I visited Seattle, WA on business. Providence -> Seattle? Fantastic food cities?! I was definitely excited. Although I had the pleasure dining out at a fantastic sushi restaurant (which I may cover in the future), I unfortunately also had possibly the worst restaurant food experience of my life.
WASABI | Seattle, WA
WARNING: This review will be totally, and brutally, honest.
As I mentioned, I was in Seattle for business recently. While there, my colleagues and I went to the trendy Wasabi Bistro on 2nd Ave in the downtown area. When we got there, I was surprised to see that they served not only sushi, but Korean food too! Having eaten sushi the day before, I decided to go the Korean-food route instead. This looked like a pretty upscale place with good food, so why not? That was probably the worst food choice of my life.
Now, I understand that Wasabi is mainly a place to dine on sushi but to have a whole menu dedicated to Korean food, it must be decent, right? And while it may not be as good as the sushi, there was no way that it could have been that terrible, right? Otherwise, they wouldn’t have included a Korean food menu. Or so I thought. As I mentioned before I wasn’t quite in the mood to eat sushi since I’d eaten it the night before.
I began my Wasabi journey by, first, ordering the Sundubu Jjigae which consists of soft tofu, vegetables, and seafood spicy broth. I am not a n00b when it comes to Sundubu Jjigae. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things to make myself! And yes, it has a dashi (seafood) broth base, but I enjoy it more with thin slices of pork belly. Moreover, that’s how it is served at many Korean restaurants I’ve been to too (and some places actually give you a choice of meat). So, of course, I asked if it were possible to substitute the seafood (squid, chunks of fish, octopus, etc) for sliced pork belly instead. Otherwise, I would order the Sam gyup sal instead (I’ll get to that later…).
If the answer was simply: “No, we cannot make substitutions” I would have been totally fine with that. Instead, when the waiter returned, he proceeded to tell me that he asked the chef and that the chef gave him a look of despair. It was going to be too hard to make Sundubu Jjigae with sliced pork? Ehh… It’s really not that hard. Honestly. My thought then was that 1) the chef really just didn’t know what he was doing (move aside!) or 2) the kitchen just makes a huge batch of the jjigae and possibly reheat it as ordered (even small hole-in-the-walls have the jjigae made-to-order and make it in a stone bowl). So ok, there was no way to have it with the sliced pork with the jjigae because of restaurant rules then that would be no problem. But the fact that I got an explanation that the chef was “scared” of screwing it up doesn’t give me much faith in the kitchen. In fact, it’s embarrassing for a good looking restaurant’s kitchen to straight up not know how to make simple Sundubu Jjigae, which might I remind you is just a Soft Tofu Stew, especially if they have a Korean kitchen menu decked out in Korean-named foods.
Sam gyup sal
I wasn’t able to get my simple soft tofu stew, but I wasn’t going to let that ruin my night. All I wanted was something simple and how much more simple can you get than grilled pork belly? There wasn’t anyway to screw up simple grilled pork belly. The Sam gyup sal (samgyeopsal) couldn’t fail me, right? And hey! Korean pork dishes are FANTASTIC! I couldn’t be more wrong about food in my life…
The Sam gyup sal dish at Wasabi was served with, of course, grilled pork belly, a green dipping sauce, a small portion of a greens salad, a side dish of garlic in a spicy sauce, and a side of kimchi (Note: Korean foods are often served with side dishes, called banchan). Overall, the presentation was cute and modern. It consisted of the pork, sauce, salad, garlic, and kimchi laying across a long white rectangular plate. No problems here. Not yet.
The salad looked pretty normal. Good. But it was teeming of sesame oil smells. Bad. The salad was drenched in sesame oil. And, for anyone who has ever cooked with sesame oil, you would know that it has an extremely strong taste and flavor so you would only use a little bit of it in anything, unless it is a main ingredient. You definitely would not drench a salad in just sesame oil. There was absolutely no vinegar of any sort in the dressing to break up the heaviness of the sesame oil. I honestly felt like I was drowning in oil by eating the salad. I could not eat anymore of it after one bite. So I moved on to the pork belly.
The pork belly was so thickly cut that I felt like I was eating pure fat with a little bit of meat on it. It was nothing your simple samgyeopsal (Korean BBQ). I had so much hope for it because how badly could you f— up grilled pork? This was a clear example of how less is more. I could feel the pork fat lining the insides of my stomach. And there was so. Much. Pork. Belly. On. The. Plate. How were they seriously expecting people to eat fatty pork belly with a heavy sesame-oil drenched salad? Preposterous! At least there was the Korean kimchi. They definitely couldn’t screw the kimchi up, right?
Wrong. The kimchi I had at Wasabi was probably the worst kimchi I have ever eaten in my life. And I love kimchi and I have eaten a lot of it! Kimchi should be slightly sour, slightly salty, spicy, and refreshing. Forget about this kimchi though — similar to how the salad was drenched in sesame oil, the kimchi was drenched in…. fish sauce. I understand kimchi may indeed have fish sauce in it, but it tasted as though the amount you would put in a container of kimchi existed in this one, very tiny, serving of kimchi. It tasted as though someone shook fish sauce onto this serving as if they were putting fish sauce in a batch of green papaya salad. Again, I felt like I was drowning in salt and fish, not to mention I was already drowning in pig fat and sesame oil. It was absolutely terrible.
There was a side dish of garlic, but because the other dishes were so terrible I didn’t even bother to touch it.
After tasting my order, I really regretted not going with the sushi. Since they had a Korean menu, though, I hoped it would be close to decent. My advice to the restaurant would be to totally ditch the Korean menu because clearly they couldn’t even get the basics right. And, yes, I get it. Chefs can totally be innovative with the food. But I truly believe that a good chef at an upper scale restaurant should try to be “innovative” with food if they don’t even understand the flavors of the foods they are trying to emulate. Every food on my dish was overly-something. Too fatty. Too thick. Too salty. It was almost as if they were trying to cover up their non-understanding of Korean food with these other “flavors”. Simple, clean, refreshing, and a little savory is what my meal should have been and Wasabi missed all of those points on such a basic Korean food. To have such Korean food like that being served is a completely misleading to have an entire menu for it.
Presentation only goes so far.
Overall, the atmosphere is okay. It’s a little too pretentious for my tastes, and honestly I would only go there again if I wanted overpriced sushi and cocktails and dress up in my fanciest clubbing get-up.
The service was OK. Our waiter was a total air-head who forgot drinks and didn’t even know the menu… not to mention a lack of professionalism for such a classy-looking establishment. He was nice though.
While my review of Wasabi Bistro Japanese Restaurant is harsh, this is really my own opinion on the Korean food they serve there and may not necessarily reflect other items on the menu. Their sushi may actually be decent and it may be great for others! Personally, the atmosphere and food ethic just doesn’t do it for me.
Determine for yourself if you’re in the Seattle area!
Wasabi Bistro Japanese Restaurant
2311 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA 98121