It feels like they were refurbishing this spot for years in preparation for Oxford’s newest Japanese restaurant, but last term, Wasabi finally opened. The prospect of there being a Pret-equivalent where I could dash in for a bowl of yakisoba kept me in high spirits through the Autumn. Therefore, (I admit unashamedly) I was there, of course, on the day of its opening to see if it lived up to my expectations. Wasabi is a chain of restaurants with places all over England, and I was familiar with Wasabi in London. I was looking forward to tasting Oxford’s flavours and seeing if it would take over Itsu as my favourite take-out spot in town.
My friend Rosa and I gathered a group of Japanese friends in our College and we headed down to Cornmarket Street. Long rows of sushi greeted me in Wasabi, but I headed straight for the hot food because it was a freezing evening. I picked out a dish of katsu and yakisoba. Rosa chose katsukare. I found that the portion size of the yakisoba was over-generous as the dish is very filling, and the noodles tasted quite bland and dry.
Rosa was satisfied with her katsukare, even though pickles were missing! The dish would have been greatly brightened with some colourful tsukemono, like purple shibazuke and red fukujinzuke. I think that Japanese curry is always a safe option to go for since it almost universally tastes good.
For pudding I had a choice between pancakes with beanpaste, or pocky sticks. Both made me miss combinis in Tokyo! I miss the combini butter pancakes, but I am not so much of a fan of the beanpaste ones. I was disappointed that there was no ice-cream. I feel that Wasabi missed an opportunity there – after a rich dinner, I would have appreciated a cone of vanilla and matcha soft cream. I guess it is not very appropriate for this time of year in England, but in Japan it’s eaten all year round.
We also all felt that the dishes were quite expensive (£6 for a fast-food meal). However, for British-Japanese food, and in particular, British-Japanese fast food, Wasabi does pretty well. It serves warming dishes which are at least more authentic than Itsu (even though I do love Itsu’s unique tonkatsu to be honest!). I will be returning to Wasabi, but will probably choose the curry dish instead next time.