West Hollywood, Los Angeles
Wa Sushi & Bistro is an unexpected gem. Set on the second level of a strip mall overlooking 7-11 and a gas station on La Cienega and Holloway, the location is far from picturesque. Inside is not much more atmospheric – the restaurant has a neon “Open” sign on the door, four or five formica tables, and an overall turquoise and pink theme.
But then, you taste the food – and you realize – none of those things matter. This is fantastic sushi. The thing that is unique about Wa Sushi is that the menu combines flavorful sauces and high quality ingredients to create sushi dishes rather than sushi rolls, many of which feature a combination of cooked and raw ingredients that make for an entirely new sushi-eating experience.
The crispy spicy tuna roll is a personal favorite and a perfect example. The base is crispy rice that has been cooked in a cast iron tray to create a golden-brown layer of satisfyingly crunchy rice and the raw spicy tuna on top is finely chopped and perfectly spiced, then placed artfully on the rice rectangles, with little crispy popped rice balls sprinkled on top. I’ve had this dish multiple places and no one else compares – Wa knocks it out of the park.
Another favorite is the lobster tempura with creamy spicy sauce. The lumps of lobster meat are generous, the tempura is light and flavorful, and the sauce, which feels delicately painted on, has a spicy kick that brings the dish together. Also at the top of my list is the miso glazed eggplant and sea bass, which is served in an eggplant skin bowl and features equally sized square chunks of sweet and sour golden brown sea bass and eggplant.
On my most recent trip to Wa last weekend with my husband and good friends we decided to try the Omakase, or chef’s selection of five dishes and dessert. This led us to the tuna carpaccio with truffle oil, teriyaki sauce, and red peppercorns, which was a rich combination of delicious flavors and which will now be a permanent feature on our must-order list. I will say that I didn’t think the Omakase was quite worth the $70 per person price – it is a great way to be introduced to items on the menu that you might not otherwise order and the portions are generous, but once you have your favorites, it is cheaper to just order those. Even if you order a la carte, it’s still an expensive sushi night out – at least $100 for dinner for two – but the quality reflects the price.
I would be remiss if I didn’t describe the actual physical menu, as it always strikes a nerve with my inner management consultant. Most menus simply list their dishes – not so at Wa. The 28-page menu has a table of contents upfront and lists dishes in every possible permutation of organization. The front section of the menu is color coded: blue for raw dishes, orange for cooked dishes, pink for lightly cooked dishes. The back section of the menu is organized by ingredient. There is also a “favorites list” in the front of the menu, organized by hot and cold dishes. Each individual dish can be listed as many as three times in the menu. And that does not include the blackboard, which they prop by your table when you sit down. The blackboard has its own organizational structure, similar but not consistent with what’s in the menu. It also includes some items that are not in the menu at all (or that I’ve never succeeded in locating in the menu).
Menu confusion not withstanding, Wa Sushi is always my first choice for a serious sushi night out on the town.More information: Wa Sushi & Bistro 1106 N La Cienega Blvd, Ste 201
West Hollywood, CA 90069 (310) 854-7285