November 29, 2011

Wasabiya at the Highlands offers a taste of the exotic

By Josephine Lee–

When I moved to Louisville, I made it my goal to sample every sushi restaurant in town. I realized after a few restaurants exactly how daunting the task was. Not only is sushi pretty expensive, but Louisville seems to have an overabundance of sushi cuisine all over the city. A Groupon for Wasabiya caught my eye and I immediately knew I had to buy it. That Groupon is the best one by far I have bought.

Located in the Highlands neighborhood on Baxter Avenue, I knew that Wasabiya had a lot to live up to. Located on a block that included numerous popular restaurants and pubs and local eateries, I soon realized that Wasabiya had to be pretty special to be able to remain in business. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the life size cutout of a geisha with a cut-out you can put your face in. When you saw the back of the cutout, the image was of a sumo wrestler. It added a cultural touch to an interior that wasn’t screaming “Asian” to its customers. In fact, the only Asian decorative characteristics were on the doors leading in and out of the kitchen. The interior was cozy but looked modern with the green painted brick and fiery red and yellow glass hanging lamps. The mood was accentuated even more by the modern rectangular plates, which gave everything a contemporary feel. There were seats up by the bar for customers to watch the sushi chefs create the rolls and plenty of tables spread out comfortably.

Wasabiya offers entrees and sushi for lunch and dinner, but I could tell that it was the sushi that Wasabiya was known for. I didn’t arrive at Wasabiya until 9 at night, but the restaurant was pretty full. The sushi I had at Wasabiya was the best I have ever had. The seafood was fresh and the taste of the rice was fresh. They also offered a good range of prices. There were plenty of rolls to choose from that were $6.99, but also plenty of rolls that were $9 and higher. Sushi roll styles vary from original, those wrapped with rice and nigiri, vegetarian, to full deep-fried or partially deep-fried, rolls without rice and oven-baked rolls. Of course, a full description of each roll is provided on the menu, but if you aren’t satisfied with any of the options, or if you’re feeling adventurous, just tell the waitress “omakase,” which loosely translates to “it’s up to you,” and the Wasabiya chefs will make you something completely unique.

If you’re not afraid to try sashimi, or raw fish, I definitely recommend the Eating Lemon roll. It features crab, cucumber and avocado on the inside, with thinly sliced (raw) salmon and a lemon slice on the top. It tasted tangy and refreshing and would be perfect on a hot summer day. For those who want to stay away from raw fish, I recommend the Spider roll, which has fried crab, regular crab and cucumber rolled in massago topped with unagi sauce, or the Yum Yum roll which was just crab and cucumber rolled in rice and nigiri, with Japanese mayo and spicy sauce.
For those who want to stay away from sushi, there are plenty of other options available. Entrees, including chicken, steak and Korean barbeque ribs, are served with soup, salad, rice and vegetables and are available for lunch and dinner, as well as soups and salads served a la carte. Udon noodles and rice are cooked to order as well.

What is going to keep me coming back to Wasabiya is the vast amount of sushi options, the appropriate prices and, of course, the tasty sushi. Wasabiya makes sushi exotic again, especially during a time when sushi has become so standard.

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Photos: Eric Voet/The Louisville Cardinal

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