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Wasabi review

Jennifer Choi finds a fishy Japanese haven amongst conveyor belts and miniature boats in Chinatown

Published on May 18th 2009.


Wasabi review

Conveyor belts. My interactions with them are largely limited to supermarket check-outs and playing the occasional ‘where's Wally’ with my bashed-up luggage, neither of which is something to get excited about.

The only other occasion in which they feature is in the service of sushi. Until fairly recently, Yo! Sushi was pretty much the only place to have sushi conveyor-belt stylee, and with prices starting £1.70 for two quail's eggs worth of sticky rice, it was difficult to leave satiated without taking out a second mortgage.

And with so few mortagages about nowadays, affordable raw fish (and their more accessible veggie counterparts) is better news than ever. So Wasabi, with its offers of prix fixe menus, 30% off the a la carte and £1 plates on weekday lunches, was already a winner.

The conveyor belt was the centrepiece upon entering. A stairway seemed to lead to a more conventional dining area, but it was this merry-go-round of sushi that punters gravitated to. My companion spotted the hatch through which the plates where replenished, and we perched nearby for first pickings of cuttlefish (ika), eel and butterfly prawn nigiri.

[A word of warning for the claustrophobic or larger diners amongst us - my friends and I found ourselves sucking our bellies in to get seated, and were shuffling our chairs ever closer in to let other diners pass throughout our meal. We didn't mind, but space was certainly at a premium at this end of the belt.]

For the uninitiated, nigiri is a common type of sushi where hand-formed vinegar rice is topped with slices of seafood, egg or veg. They might sound like variations on a theme, but these three could not taste more different.

The tender, pearl-coloured cuttlefish and its roe garnish looked and tasted the part with clean flavours and a mix of textures that kept things interesting. The teriyaki-glazed eel was equally tasty, but had a tempered, moreish sweetness that may just convert a fish sceptic. The battered butterfly prawn, was attractive and crunchy but needed more flavour than a simple dot of salad cream. It seemed out of place among its uncooked cousins.

We followed with a seafood and spicy fish skin ura maki - inside out sushi rolls. The former was wrapped in flying fish roe and filled with crabmeat, octopus and avocado. Thanks to their freshness and natural vivid colours, what may have sounded like a Ready Steady Cook list of disparate ingredients, was translated into a feast for the eyes and mouth alike. The spicy fish version was coated with mixed sesame seeds and seaweed flakes. These were topped with a dot of chili sauce and held chopped spring onions and an assortment of 'fish' - the staff's helpful reply when queried as to its filling. Turns out the 'fish' needed a touch more of the DIY soy and wasabi concoction than usual, but it was certainly pretty enough to be taken off the belt regularly by our fellow diners.

I started to question whether these picturesque plates are leaving shoes too big to fill when the cooing stopped and the chowing started. This didn't seem to be the case with our neighbour's sashimi platter, a splendid boat with neatly arranged chunks of marbled salmon, arctic clams, tuna, and mackerel galore.

Their lingering coos prompted us to order a soft-shelled crab temaki hand roll. The cone-shaped roll arrived with a tempura parcel and leaves peeking out from the top. I eagerly bit into the puffy golden cloud and made approving noises while I chewed. My friend asked for a taste. Much to her surprise and dismay, my one bite seemed to be the extent of the lovely crab in our roll and we were now left with yet more rice, some julienned vegetables and wasabi. This might have been fine, if the temaki had not advertised the crab as its main feature.

Still, upon leaving the lanterned and marqueed doorways of Wasabi, I realised that I’d enjoyed the theatre of the belt, the various visual treats made from fresh fish and the friendly, if hapless, staff in their authentic service gowns.

And this seemed to be the consensus amongst the happy diners. Not that this is such a surprise, given set menus ranging from £7.95 to £14.95, and the mix of miso soup, sushi plates and noodle/rice dishes. A touch cringingly, in Wasabi’s words, ‘for those with a sumo appetite’, additional sushi plates are a few more quid a pop. I already have a return trip in mind with a view to digging into slurpy ramen, katsu curry and a myriad of sake varieties.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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39 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

SozzleMay 18th 2009.

Are you seriously citing the urbandictionary are a source for real words? And I thought I was stupid.

AnonymousMay 18th 2009.

New Samsi at Spinningfields also does yummy sushi - bit limited choice on the belt but meal deals make the trip quite cheap and worth it.

Beefy StewMay 18th 2009.

Well, that serves you right Anonymous for being a weirdo veggie nutter.

Mr Blue SkyMay 18th 2009.

@ Pedant-a-tronI thought they were vegaquarians?

FruitarianMay 18th 2009.

liveswithaveggie: what choice do vegetables have? Half they time they're not even cooked - they're just snacked on raw whilst they're still alive.At lease cows don't feel your teeth bite them

ladyMay 18th 2009.

Cheers Doc!

AnonMay 18th 2009.

Other than their likeminded ones, who cares about vegetarians, really?. If youre willing to limit yourself to eating nothing but greenery, then you cant enjoy eating that much, so dont bother posting messages on restaurant board.All they ever do is moan about the lack of choice, which they have put upon themselves, and also about the fact that they dont pay much less, when veg is a lot cheaper. Youre paying for everybody elses inconvenience, not the dish!Besides, if you worked in a kitchen and saw what happened behind the scenes in 90% of eateries, you wouldnt ever eat out, and would realise that there is almost no such thing as vegatarian food when eating out, and your asparagus will almost definately have touched chicken, blood and all that, in some indirect form on its way to your plate.Anyway, as for Wasabi, its without a doubt the best place in town for a quick, no frills sushi train. Yo Sushi is pretentious, overpriced and just there to satisfy the trendy in town. You really cant lose at Wasabi, for a pretty authentic feeling, well priced, filling and tasty, fast meal. It is what is it, and sushi trains are supposed to be all of the above mentioned.

SozzleMay 18th 2009.

Actually, you can be vegetarian and still each fish. It's not all about just eating vegetables you know.

DescartesMay 18th 2009.

Ah but anon, most of the vegetarians out there eat fish (the ones I know anyway). Now personally I don't think that makes them vegetarian, I think it makes them liars :)

ladyMay 18th 2009.

I lurve Wasabi!!!!!!!

jimMay 18th 2009.

I eat at wasabi around once a week. It's such amazing value, I have teh same thing every time...sashimi boat for two (for one), and the hot dish set meal deal, it costs only about £15 in total. Get the boat for 4 if sharing.The only downside is the limited and frankly poor stuff off the belt, and the tune sashimi is often not the freshest and even sometimes smells fishy.Still you cant argue with the price.

JhoMay 18th 2009.

@Anon - I've eaten at Wasabi very recently (within two weeks), and they do make both vegetarian rolls and tofu parcels. Was it a while ago that you tried the place out? I'm a really fussy vegetarian and had no problems in there at all.

orignal anonMay 18th 2009.

Glad to see my rant has sparked a bit of veggie conversation! To be exact, someone who only eats fish is called a pescatarian (look it up on urbandictionary.com). And, a non-flesh eating diet is...well vegetarian :) No shame in eating fish if you do, everyone has a choice (i did) - but don't upset veggies by saying you're veggie when you clearly aren't. Anyways, back to Wasabi - it was about a month ago, and I asked our server about some veggie rolls and she said no - just fish rolls, but it may be different now. I will say, my friend that ate fish loved it! I just wasn't pleased with the veggie options :-( However, I'm willing to have another try!

drMay 18th 2009.

If she want to.... a "Lady"'s prerogative....

cleoMay 18th 2009.

i'd rather pay more and go to yo, though the yo in the trafford centre is dire...

HumanitarianMay 18th 2009.

Leave the animals and veggies alone, lets just go for cannabalism!

drMay 18th 2009.

Leave the "Lady" alone

Ronny JMay 18th 2009.

Emma, I'm Catholic. Can I get her number? I swear I've never looked at porn... in the last 24 hours.

liveswithaveggieMay 18th 2009.

Surely eating fish is ok for veggies given the very way in which fish is caught.If you think about it fish actually commit suicide by willfully swimming into the fishermans nets!?!?!?!? It not like we shoot the fish or anything - they clearly have a choice?

Pedant-a-tronMay 18th 2009.

People that eat fish, but are otherwise vegetarian, are known as pescetarians.

VeggieMay 18th 2009.

This isn't an arguement about veggies. But before you make assumptions about all veggies and vegans moaning and preaching about meat, I just need to make a point that some (yes there may be a few) don't preach about not eating meat and some don't eat meat for the plain and simple fact that the taste and texture of it makes them ill. What difference does one veggie make to animals being killed, nothing, but that doesn't change my thoughts about eating meat because I simply don't like meat, I even cook it for my partner and friends!

AvoMay 18th 2009.

You like it hot?

emma graceMay 18th 2009.

I have a friend who is a vegetarian but will eat meat as long as it's been raised a Catholic and has never had it's mind polluted with pornography? Wonder what the word for that is...

AnonymousMay 18th 2009.

I eat fish and i am a vegitarian

SteveMay 18th 2009.

been a few times over the last 12 months and I'd say it's ok for a cheap stomach filler. The tiny slices of fish in/on the sushi help to keep the price down though. Liked the soft shell crab on its own though...good tempura batter and very fresh tasting.

east lancsMay 18th 2009.

Cas, we don't need the VS to tell us that. Being neither Mineral nor Vegetable, there's not much room for maneuver!

CastlefieldMay 18th 2009.

The Veg Society reckons fish are animals and as such a vegetarian cannot eat them. A friend of mine used to be a staunch veggie, that's how I know this little snippet. I say if you are a vegetarian who eats fish and feels shunned by your vegetarian community, sod it and come back over to the dark side. Mmmmm meat.

SJMay 18th 2009.

People who eat fish are NOT vegetarians!I am and I love Wasabi, there are usually some veggie dishes on the belt but they have made up one for me that I fancied trying but hadn't gone past. There is a card in the dentre of the belt that states what all the dishes are and there are a number of veggie options. Great value and a good little hang out.

office workerMay 18th 2009.

I'm a fan of Wasabi - went last week and the fish atop the sushi rice had definitely improved on the past - softer and more of the quality I'd expect in a top Japanese restaurant.The only thing that annoys me is the lack of variety on the lunch conveyor belt! I asked for a couple of the items which there were pictures of, only to be told I couldn't have them :(

wasabifanMay 18th 2009.

veggie I fail to see why you even commented on this review in the first place. Anyhow, I love wasabi and am frankly gutted that so many people will know about it as you are already asked to queue sometimes. The Sushi is tasty and filling as are the items I have ordered from the menu. It is so cheap and the atmosphere and service are always good. I always try and take people there when they come to stay.

AvoMay 18th 2009.

So the "Lady" can bait me on the guilty food pleasures thread and I have no right of reply?

AnonymousMay 18th 2009.

I've eaten there twice and thoroughly enjoyed it (experience and the food). The first time I had 3 bowls from the conveyor belt, which for a lunch time was fine. The 2nd time I had the more substantial offering of soup plus three from the conveyor belt (all for £7 I think) which was probably too filling.... the soup alone would have been fine!

AnonymousMay 18th 2009.

I ate Wasabi and hated it! Although, yes I am vegetarian and this place isn't intended for a vegetarian - most sushi bars normally some veggie rolls and noodle dishes with tofu and veggies. There were no veggie rolls (only fish - and when asking for a veggie option the waitress then said 'well we have fish', insisting that b.c I'm veggie I must eat fish). So I ordered a soup/noodle/veggie dish and it just tasted of bland broth and noodles (no flavour at all!) Sadly, I was left hungry and unsatisfied. Yo! Sushi may be pricey, but at least they offer dishes for all diets.

lannaMay 18th 2009.

I am dissapointed that Wasabi has been reviewed because now everyone will know about it. This is a wonderful place, as authenti as you can get in manchester. the portions are a lot bigger and far less expensive than Yo Sushi. granted there sometimes isn't as much choiceo the conveyor belt as i'd like but the food you can order is amazing. The terriaki chicken with rice looks plain but the flavour is to die for! love it love it love it!

Thomas StuartApril 26th 2010.

Last time I ate there I got food poisening.

AnonymousJanuary 17th 2011.

Food and quality is cheap, right down to the type of rice, they are NOT using real Japanese (round) rice but much cheaper and inferior tasting long grain rice.

Service is average, silly think, if green tea is unlimited (free refills), why dont they give you a pot of tea, instead they refill when cup is empty.

AnonymousOctober 1st 2012.

Wasabi is better than Yo!Sushi will ever by miles! The Wasabi in Printworks is great! So is any other wasabi in Manchester. Everyone who works there is working hard to get a dish in front of you! While veggies complain about lack of choice, you're too blind to notice that there are veggie rolls and very good noodle dishes as well as soup.! There is also a dessert room in one wasabi and the desserts they serve there are heavenly. Wasabi is cheap, has a nice atmosphere and has perfect food. Yo!Sushi is expensive and horrible. In Manchester Arndale, outside is the Printworks building, where wasabi was here first, the Yo!Sushi arrived and stole the customers! For those of you who haven't tried Wasabi-Sushi and noodle bar, I highly recommend you to try it out!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Mark GarnerNovember 8th 2012.

Member of staff eh, Anon?

the Whalley RangerOctober 1st 2012.

I care as much about vegetarians as vegetarians care about me. This place is great full stop.

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