Having recently opened in Holborn, Wabi London is a calculated endeavor. It’s a Japanese restaurant, with ex-Nobu Australian Chef Scott Hallsworth at the helm, promising to take diners on a “culinary journey that goes beyond sushi and sashimi.” Intriguing.
The interior of the basement-located restaurant is sleek, with bold black and white décor, clean, sharp lines and low lighting. The cocktail lounge is filled with shiny mirrors and hotel bar seating, while the spacious dining area boasts dark-wood tables and ceilings. Adding a buzz to the venue is the large open kitchen.
My husband and I visit on a Thursday evening and the restaurant was pretty empty with only a few couples sitting at the bar, which is where we started our evening with a Forgotten Dream (cucumber, lemon, Bulldog gin, Midori, and green chartreuse) and an Apple Blossom (Russian Standard Vodka, manzana verde, Nigori sake, Calpis, fresh apple juice, and lime juice). They were both delicious.
We opt for the full-on dining experience tonight; however, there is a sushi bar as well as a dessert bar. We’re eating inside tonight, although, there’s also an outdoor terrace for when the sun shines. Our friendly waitress shows us to our table, where we’ll be trying the astounding 10-course tasting menus, both the vegetarian and meat options.
Our first starter is Otsumami Snacks: fire-roasted edamame, rice senbei, smoky pork scratching, and sweet and sour nasu, expertly presented as served as a sharing platter on a wooden tray. Everything tastes exceptional and before we know it, we’ve devoured the lot, despite our waitress advising us to take it easy, as there’s a lot left to try. Thankfully, the next course is smaller, but doesn’t compromise on taste.
My three Crunchy Temaki Cones are served upright inside holes of an oak-colored wooden board, served with (what can only be described as) a heavenly wasabi cream and charcoal onions. Across the table, Rich’s diving into his salmon version of the cones, which also gets the thumbs-up. Every dish surpasses the high quality of the food it follows, offering something unique in taste, flavor and design. Each is a bold statement, a confident effort expertly considered and produced.
My husband dives into the next course, a quirky dish of Lobster and Chips — butter-poached lobster with vegetable chips and a yuzu truffle egg — while my mouth is watering over Mushroom Ishi-Yaki. The hot-stone cooked mushrooms, smothered in a rich, dark, salty, soy sauce, is tantalizing on the taste buds. Rich’s favorite dish is the Wagyu Steak Ishi-Yaki with chunks of succulent meat covered in a smoky Japanese BBQ sauce.
Mine is the Tofu Tataki, a bean curd dish that arrives sizzling to the table, smeared in an onion Ponzu with garlic crisps. It’s one of the best-tasting sauces I’ve ever eaten. So much so that my husband says he would consider swapping it for his delicious Yellowtail Sashimi with smoky nasu yuzu soy, which is served on a white plate and prepared as though a small work of art. Praise indeed, coming from a meat-eater. We devour each course, which is topped off with a plate of sushi, soft rice with pickles, avocado and vegetables for me; while Rich is served fresh, raw fish options.
Next up is the first dessert course, a yuzu jelly with lychee granite as a palate-cleanser before the meal finale. Those with a sweet tooth should head to the dessert bar, overseen by Sergio del Castillo Mora, a fellow Nobu London graduate, for the Chocol-8 – chocolate served eight ways. Each course is expertly matched with a glass of wine at the diner’s pace, so slower drinkers can keep hold of their favorite for longer if they so wish.
We leave incredibly impressed. The attention to detail of every element of the dishes, which only use fresh, seasonal, British produce, is outstanding. The vegetarian tasting menu doesn’t compromise on flavor or uniqueness, but instead delivers cuisine which would rival any meat dish. Next time I go to Wabi, I’m ordering exactly the same dishes again. It’s that good.