You would almost be mistaken for thinking you were in the heart of swanky Mayfair upon reaching Wabi; large flaming torches outside, a cloakroom as you enter and a spiral staircase leading you down to the bar, lounge and dining area at the basement level below.
In fact, this stylish new Japanese restaurant resides in Holborn. To seal a firm luxurious stamp, the space is elegantly filled with clean lines, soft deep colours and subdued lighting, giving it an intimate, refined look and a cool member’s club feel.
To warm up, Mr Husband and I sipped on amazing artisan Asian-inspired cocktails at the sleek dark panelled bar (go for the Blackheart if you like a drink with rum, or go off-menu like I did and try a mean lychee martini – gin-based, softly sweet, fresh and crisp).
Wabi is headed up by exNobu head chef Scott Hallsworth, who has cleverly managed to present us with different taste dimensions to a cuisine style most famously known for its rice rolled sushi and sashimi. Wow-factor Wabi dishes vary from something crunchy to BBQ to fire roasted offerings, as well as an extensive selection of nigiri, sashimi, sushi, maki and cut rolls.
The ex-Nobu team also includes highly skilled sushi chef Taiiji Maruyama and Sergio del Castillo Mora, a fellow Nobu London graduate, who oversees the dedicated dessert bar. We decided to go for the well-rounded 10-course ‘Kaiseki’ tasting menu, which includes a bowl of moreish fire roasted edamame and crunchy temaki cones – mini ice-cream like bites, filled with toro and dressed with wasabi cream and charcoaled onions.
A small plate of seabass sashimi followd by yellowtail sashimi with smokey nasu and yuzu bubbles made two perfect pre-courses before tucking into a yummy ‘lobster and chips’ – kombu/ butter poached lobster with uni, thinly sliced vegetable chips and yuzu-truffle-egg dip – our firm favourite. Next arrived warm loch duart salmon with a lemon miso, green chilli salsa and burnt cedar. Mr Husband’s second favourite dish was the aged rib-eye ishi-yaki – black beer marinated beef, served sizzling with a Japanese BBQ sauce.
A selection of sushi finished our savoury courses, followed with calpico sorbet and slow gin sorbet. Our menu was topped off sweetly with green tiramisu and crunchy cocoa nib ice cream; Wabi’s personal take on an Italian pudding classic.
Other highlights on the menu include kombu-roasted Chilean sea bass with spicy shiso ponzu, wagyu and foie gras gyoza with goma ponzu, wood-fired mushroom salad with yuzu-truffle-miso dressing and soba ‘pancakes’ with king crab, avocado, yuzu mayo and puffed soba. Sweet-toothes will love Sergio’s signature ‘chocol-8’ – chocolate decadently served eight ways. Wabi certainly wowed us with its modern, fresh and distinctive take on Japanese dining – we are sure it will for you too. Watch Out Nobu, Wabi is in town…
For more information and reservations visit: www.wabirestaurants.com