Now I don't want to over sell Wabi, so I am going to be conservative and simply say, "This is the best Japanese restaurant I've ever been to". Wabi, named after the aesthetic movement characterised by simple undeclared beauty. Here reflected in the seductive décor of this large basement furnished with dark wood tables, low lighting, plush seating and a wall water feature.
Wabi might be aptly named but secretly I have re-named it Wowbi after our emotions expressed with each dish.
Wabi started in Horsham where it acquired a reputation for stunning contemporary Japanese food. It's now a welcome addition to London, next to Holborn station. Though the capital hosts over 300 communities and their culinary delights, Japanese cuisine is served by an unrepresentative number of traditional family restaurants or alternatively by many large chains of sushi bars where the food is marginally worth than at Boots the Chemist.
Wabi's chef is from Australia. Scott Hallsworth, previously Nobu head chef, brings in the kind of creativity associated with Blumenthal. From the open theatre kitchen and the sushi bar, Hallsworth's team demonstrate skills through beautifully presented dishes. The front of house never shies questions and offers excellent advice. Indeed our waitresses were so impressive that after choosing a dish each, we gave them carte blanche.
The slivers of beef Tataki topped with onion ponzu and dehydrated garlic chips, soya sauce, yuzu vinegar and sake is simply divine. There was the odd embarrassing moment when I mistook my serviette for a plate, clumsily using my chopsticks to carefully place on it, a perfectly fresh scallop and a daikon julienne, I did mention the low lighting didn't I? But mostly, I didn't have a clue of what was what. It was out of sheer luck that I didn't rinse my fingers in the brown little bowl of sauce which came later with the Otoro (fatty tuna) sahimi. Normally, I would have felt threaten by my lack of background knowledge but I was under the spell.
The foie gras Martini with nashi pear soaked in green tea with its rice cracker amazed and puzzled my senses. Each dish was an explosion of sensations. Even when an alarm bells should have rang at the mention of tempura eel with pickled gherkin, I thought nothing of it. This may have been a mistake as the dish was disappointing. Oily despite the fact that Wabi has created a bespoke frier shaped so that the perfect flicking technique required for tempura can be performed.
Wabi Prices are in the high bracket, the minimum for a couple of dishes will be £30 but there is a lunch menu which is well worth seeking out. Having said this, I would go back any time and be more than satisfy with a few dishes, of course there is always that special occasion around the corner when the chocolate Japanese garden will definitely wow.
London WC2B 6EY
T: 0207 400 5400
Disclaimer: I would like to thank Wabi Management for inviting us as guests.