L and I have pretty different tastes – (I’m the one who eats no lean), so it’s pretty rare we both agree on a restaurant. However, Wa’s Japanese restaurant is that exception. It’s our to go place when we want stellar Japanese food with no surprises – because at Wa’s – there is no off night. Ever.
The interior of the restaurant is down to earth – there is nothing showy about it. L believes the whole experience eating at Wa’s is just like all izakayas he ate at while living in Osaka, Japan. It’s quiet and quaint, the devil is in the details, in the décor and particularly, the food. The interior is simple, cozy and homey, from the bamboo walls and temple décor above the comfortable black booths to the different colour place mat sets at the sushi bar.
What we normally eat depends on the weather. During the winter months, I’ll start off with the miso soup. Each sip is a treat – each spoonful catches tiny silky cubes of tofu, green seaweed, soft onions or julienned carrots. The udon noodles usually soothes any winter blues away – as you slurp away at the brimming bowl of soft, chewy noodles. The broth has this delicious depth and richness, cloudy with tempura bits, seaweed and green onions. We usually add an order of tempura to round out the meal, the batter is light, crisp and delicate, it literally melts in your mouth. Elegantly arranged like a tee-pee, the vegetables still have a crispness to them, while the large crunchy prawns are still sweet.
I would argue that the real magic behind Wa’s is the owner/sushi chef. Unlike larger Japanese restaurants with their ever-changing shift of chefs, Wa’s chef is there day and night. His chirashi (raw sliced sashimi on sushi rice) is a work of art. The beauty lies in how he arranges the assortment of fish and garnishes and his incredible knife workmanship in slicing the fish. He has a unique touch, you can see it in the cuts of fish, to the finely sliced cucumber spread out like a fan to the lemon peel that’s twisted into a knot.
Great care and attention is put into arranging the assorted fish: mackerel, tuna, salmon, scallops, red snapper, surf clam, octopus and shrimp. The quality of the fish never fails to impress us. The salmon is buttery and smooth. The scallops are luxuriously rich – the texture is like very thick whipped cream. The tamago is sweet and sponge-like in texture, so that when you bite into it some of its sweet juices come out. The dollop of fluffy pink crab is sweet and creamy, it’s so good I pick at it to savior its taste. The sushi rice is superb, each grain is separate and firm. It has the right balance of vinegar and sugar. The rice is speckled with sparkling red, orange and pale yellow roe, Japanese pickles, and finely slivered green onions. When you mix everything up in the bowl, each bite is different.
I’ve never travelled to Japan, but L swears it’s a truly authentic Japanese experience you just can’t get it other restaurants in Calgary. He states that a trip to Wa’s is like a trip to Japan, but without leaving the comforts of home. I say I don’t know nor do I care – Wa’s chirashi is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I say go for a visit before the sushi chef at Wa’s decides to retire and you miss your chance.