If you were to judge restaurants based on their size, you’d probably be missing out on a slew of hidden gems.
I try not to judge a restaurant by its cover so on a humid evening, I stepped inside Washoku with a friend looking for a bite to eat.
Located in the increasingly popular Marsa al Bateen promenade, the Asian restaurant has a handful of tables outdoors, perfect when the weather is cooler, but indoor fits just three at the sushi bar and one at a high table and stool. A swinging door to the kitchen separates the two ‘seating areas’ while two smiling, kimono-clad chefs greet us from behind the bar.
The menu comes on a tablet with photos of each item. It’s an extensive menu – with dishes like tempura, gyoza, yakitori, teppanyaki, hosomaki, teriyaki, curry, a slew of sushi, Asian salads, sweets and vibrant drinks – which often leaves me worried about the quality of the food.
It’s useful having photos of each item, though it would be good to have a brief description too, especially when you have special dietary requirements.
That said, the waiter is extremely helpful and knowledgeable, reeling off a list of ingredients for each dish we question him on.
As it turns out, there is no need for me to be worried about the quality. Every dish that comes our way is beautifully presented and equally as delicious.
The ginger and garlic edamame is a perfect balance of the two flavours that coat the al dente beans, though the spicy edamame version – coated in a spicy mayonnaise – is a bit too oily for our liking.
Jazzing up the concept of a salad, the crispy volcano version is no mundane bowl of greens. A mountain of crab stick, edamame, lettuce, cabbage, shrimp and pear is tossed in spicy mayonnaise. The dressing has a great kick and there’s subtle crispiness from the fried crab sticks.
Sticking to the seafood theme, the pistachio-crusted prawns are moreish and leave us interrogating the chef about every ingredient. The chunky, battered shrimps are coated in toasted, crushed pistachios and deep-fried to perfection, served in a creamy, sesame sauce.
Cooking something off the menu to suit my dietary requirements, the chef whips up a winning vegetable teriyaki. A colourful medley of crisp broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, button mushroom, asparagus and spring onion are tossed in a rich, sweet teriyaki sauce. It’s all served with white rice on a stark white plate with a 3D mountain and tree motif.
Of course, it wouldn’t be right to leave without tasting some sushi. The vegetable maki is crisp and clean, as it should be. But the crispy maki proves to be the stand-out roll. Seaweed is swapped for thin soya sheets, which hold together pieces of salmon, prawn and crab. It’s all sprinkled with battered tempura pieces and drizzled in soya sauce for a fresh and superb plate.
Wahoku may be small, but it certainly packs a big punch.
Need to Know We say: A little spot that’s big on flavour. AED 175 for two. Marsa al Bateen, off King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Street. Noon-10pm weekdays, noon-midnight Fridays, 1pm-11pm Saturdays. 02 444 7780 or follow @washoku.cafe on Instagram