On our trip to Noosa we also enjoyed a lovely meal at Japanese restaurant Wasabi. I was particularly excited as the Gourmet Traveller had rated it as one of the best regional restaurants in Queensland.
We arrived for our 8.30pm booking to a full but relaxed restaurant. The entrance to the restaurant (above) faces the entrance to Ricky’s River Bar and Restaurant (the reincarnation of Noosa institution Ricky Ricardo’s) – which was loud and boisterous.
Wasabi overlooks the Noosa river, which must be beautiful in the daytime but a bit of a waste at night. The space has clean, modern lines with an added quirk of half the room sitting on tatami mats on a raised platform. The restaurant was full but wasn’t too noisy and the tables were spaced a comfortable distance apart.
Diners can choose from the tasting menu ($90 per person) or a la carte. We opted for the a la carte menu and were told that the dishes are intended to be shared. The menu is divided into sushi/sashimi, then shared ‘entrees’ which are organised from lightest to richest in flavour. We had a look through and I asked the waiter how many dishes we should order for our party of four. For some reason, he would not tell me how many dishes to order, instead pressing me about which dishes we wanted and then telling me that this was not enough (we were planning to order more). He then put through the order for the first few dishes and left us alone to decide what else we wanted. This was an unnecessarily uncomfortable and protracted process… a strange start to the evening.
Our first dish arrived, a palate cleanser which was a savoury carrot cake topped with strands of carrot and Japanese mayonnaise:
The cake had an eggy consistency, not unlike a frittata. It was fine.
Next was our first dish proper – Kin Ebi ($18.50), a prawn, mango and coriander “inside out” california roll topped with tempura flakes:
Such an unusual flavour combination but it worked so well. Crunch from the tempura, some richness from the prawn and a burst of freshness from the mango and coriander. An absolute winner.
I also had some vegetable miso soup ($8):
It was nice, delicately flavoured, although no silken tofu in sight (which I love).
I only had a small taste of these as they are a bit wheaty but they were great. Moist but not fatty little parcels of pork and vegetables with a ponzu dipping sauce and some pickled vegies on the side. The vinegar profile of the cucumber worked well with the hot, meaty little mouthfuls.
We also ordered a serve of vegetable tempura ($23) and a serve of seafood tempura ($31.70). These arrived on a single plate:
The menu noted that this tempura was gluten-free which I was obviously very pleased with. Our plate of tempura included prawns, scallop, snapper, cuttlefish and even an oyster. On the vegetable front there was shiso leaf, peppers, sweet potato, asparagus, eggplant, lotus root and shitake. The tempura arrived with a little bowl of tentsuyu dipping sauce and maccha (green tea) salt on the side. The tempura was perfectly judged – crisp, hot, crunchy and not oily. The vegetables retained some crispness and the seafood I ate (prawn and cuttlefish) were perfectly cooked. Being a bit of a salt fiend I also really enjoyed the maccha sprinkled on top (it reminded me of the delicious sweet corn with maccha that I enjoyed at Izakaya Den).
Our next dish was the least successful of the night, a special of pork belly ($27):
The four or so little pieces of pork belly were served in a broth with chunks of shiitake and some julienne spring onions. Our waiter suggested ordering it with a side dish of rice ($5.50), to be eaten with the broth. The pork belly itself, the star of the dish, was the disappointment here. The fat in the pork belly had a firm jelly-like consistency and was quite cloying. I ordinarily enjoy pork belly (you can read a rave here) but I think I usually like it when it is served crispy. Here, the moist, somewhat congealed fat was a bit too much to handle. The broth itself and the flavoursome shiitake were enjoyable but that pork really let the dish down.
Our final dish was Shichimi Niku ($33) – 7 spice grass fed beef tenderloin with wasabi sweet potato mash, enoki and mushroom sauce:
This looked great and tasted amazing. The beef was nicely seared on the outside, with some crunch from the spice rub and moist and pink on the inside. The mushroom sauce was a power punch of flavour and the sweet potato and enoki on the side were soft and delicious.
Other than the pork belly, the food was exceptional – beautifully presented, well thought out and most importantly, very tasty! There were a couple of mis-steps with the service (the unhelpful response to a simple question about how much to order, asking several times for the wine list, bringing our bill without us asking for it and before we had finished our wine). These let down an otherwise very good meal. The other thing I need to mention is that the food is quite expensive and the size of the dishes is small. Given the quality of the food, I was comfortable with this, but you could certainly spend a lot of money here if you came with an appetite! We will most certainly return here when we are up North again although I hope that upon our return the service can be as outstanding as the food.
UPDATE: I went back to Wasabi in August 2010 and had another fabulous meal. This time service was faultless. We ordered a similar dishes – the Kin Ebi worked equally well with the seasonal variation of persimmon rather than mango, we also ordered the Escondido futomaki, mooloolaba yellowfin tuna with avocado, salsa, chilli and Japanese mayonnaise. The Escondido was described (somewhat impolitely) by my dining companion as a ‘mouth orgasm’. Make of that what you will, but you must order it. Delicious.
2 Quamby Plc, Noosa Sound, Qld
Ph: (07) 5449 2443 (you should definitely book!)