My wife, Shyla, and her office associate, Tamia Ballou, have cultivated a genuine friendship, in and out of the workplace, inevitably intertwining our families. Over the past couple of years, we’ve been fortunate to watch Tamia’s youngest daughter, Cydney, grow up.
At some point, Cydney got my wife to suggest that Cydney accompanied me for one of my reviews. Well, considering Cydney has extensive experience in fine dining and worldly cuisine (her father is chef Classie Ballou, caterer and sous chef at Drago’s L’Auberge), I thought she might have a lot to bring to the proverbial table.
With that, we made arrangements to descend on Wasabi Japanese Sushi and Grill. The women had arrived a few moments early, and I had three beautiful smiles greeting me as I was escorted to the table.
Darby, our server, introduced herself and offered to take our drink orders. I took in unusual décor. What appeared to be makeshift panes of replicated rice paper windows were randomly fastened to the ceiling overhead; a string of traditional paper lanterns added color to the otherwise peanut butter-hued scheme; and there was a small sushi bar that appeared as though it hadn’t had any recent customers.
Cydney sipped a soda while the adults shared a bottle of unfiltered sake. The chilled rice wine, which looks like soy milk, was a smooth and easy sip.
We chose an assortment of appetizers to share before deciding on main courses. We decided on seaweed salad, with the naturally sweet flavor of the ginger and soy sauce marinade, along with a Wasabi salad — a blend of shredded imitation crab, chef’s special sauce and spice.
An order of pan-fried pork gyoza, and wonton puffs, popular choices for many in Asian cuisine, comprised the hot appetizers, with tempura fried alligator being the locally inspired dish.
Not surprisingly, Cydney approved of the crispy wonton puffs with their cream cheese centers but took an exceptional liking to the alligator nuggets. In an effort to validate her claim, I asked if I could try one. The alligator was mild in flavor and texture.
I asked Darby for smoked salmon sashimi, pepper tuna sashimi and octopus. The sushi chef did not hold back with this beautiful and flavorful dish. The smoked salmon and pepper-crusted tuna proved to be pure melt-in-your mouth delight. While I figured the raw fish would push the limits for Cydney, nobody was prepared for the octopus. I’ve had octopus before. When grilled to the point of tenderness, with just a bit of char, it’s a fantastic dish. However, I have to admit, baby octopi on a plate, as intriguing as it looks, is a psychological barrier for me. I tried to push through it but tapped out after the first one. I can’t fault the ladies for their “no, thank you” when I offered to share.
We decided it was a good time to move towards our main entrées. Shyla and Tamia elected to share a sushi roll. Pan-fried shrimp udon sounded appetizing to me. Cydney opted for steak and chicken hibachi.
It wasn’t long before more dishes arrived, and we shuffled plates to make room. The large slices of snow crab crunch roll were described as a snow crab and avocado roll with crunch topping. It was a bit of a surprise to all that there was a heavy, syrupy sweetness to the dish. A bright yellow dancing roll with shrimp tempura in a mix of cream cheese, snow crab and avocado, was more than enough food, and a to-go box was requested.
Cydney’s eyes lit up with delight at the sight of the hibachi platter, piled with grilled steak and chicken, accompanied by sides of fried rice and noodles as well as a variety of sauces.
It’s safe to say we enjoyed a great evening of adventure and laughter with friends. Wasabi offers a wide array of choices in affordable Japanese cuisine in a no-frills, low-key setting.
What about the shrimp udon, you might ask? Yeah, that omission was deliberate — you’re best left alone to wonder.
Wasabi is located at 3905 Ryan Street in Lake Charles.
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