Thursday, October 20, 2011

Attacking Japanese Fusion Head-on in Seattle

Waan Japanese Izakaya
2020 2nd Avenue
Belltown, Seattle, WA
(206) 441-5637

Upon my arrival in Seattle this week, there was only one mission in mind on my first night here, and that's to be in a massive Battle Royale with the Dragon and Mecha Godzilla at Waan Japanese Izakaya.


For starters, I tested my taste buds on one of this restaurant’s happy hour selections—a salmon poke ($4). Given the volume of what I saw, I imagine this dish, along with many others, is enough to make many misers happy and still feel well fed afterwards. My taste buds met the puffed rice vermicelli head on and I loved it. These three words aren't enough to state how carefully prepared this vermicelli is. I can eat this stuff like popcorn come Chinese New Year, but the way my family prepares it always looks and tastes greasy.

I couldn't find or taste any signs of oil. I attacked the rest of the seaweed and nori greens with a passion that would make even an ex-lover blush. This dish’s citrus tongue caressed my own and I didn't want the moment to be over. Even for a late night visit, this restaurant kept the kelp pristine. The crispy nori and seaweed complemented the succulent pieces of salmon slices nestling within. I’d have to describe what I was doing as fishing. More salmon would’ve easily turned this dish into a meal, but I was okay with what was offered. I got my much-needed dose of greens for the day.

In what arrived next, the Mecha Godzilla roll ($12) appeared first with his tail sticking out at me in an act of defiance. The cilantro represented the monster's spiny back and when I eyed the asparagus, I had to chuckle. Now that's a beautiful picture of creative food art. And when I started to tear a roll apart, I found he had a spine. Two pieces of asparagus are used and it made for a nice tender crispy taste in contrast to the other flavours going on. There isn’t a lot going for this roll, but there were plenty of spicy flavour to attack my taste buds. It made what I had before feel like a tease for the main course. The differing hot sauces slowly hit me one by one, and very slowly, the cream cheese helped cool me down. The American grown Kobe Beef they used here was succulently soft and I hardly registered on the fact that I was eating meat. If this roll had any other name, I'd also call it the Incredible Hulk.

With some modification of the ingredients to reflect this superhero, maybe he can challenge the mighty Dragon roll ($12). When considering the ingredients used in this sea-themed roll—prawns, fresh water eel, flying fish roe and even more cream cheese—I'm slowly being won over. I had sushi with cream cheese before but I never fully appreciated the taste. Sometimes the chefs simply used too much and it overpowered the rest of the ingredients because of its texture and flavour. But with the Dragon, I found that it had the right mix of ingredients to make the rest of the roll stand out.

What I ate was both intoxicating and joyous. The secret to this roll is in the roe. It helped bring that much needed difference out. Also, trying to fit the Dragon into my mouth was a test of my lasting power. I was full. I wanted to fall over and admit defeat. There were three pieces left and they were mocking me. If this restaurant only carried authentic Asahi Black to help wash my meal down, I could’ve lasted just that little longer.

This fight was one that was fought to one huge bitter end. Who was the winner? Who's the loser? In terms of taste, texture and presentation, the winner belongs to the Dragon. Waan's fusion version of the roll is one I'd revisit often. Sorry Godzilla, you've been beaten.

4½ Blokes out of 5

Wann Japanese Izakaya on Urbanspoon

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