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For Japanese food lovers, a little jewel in Sequim

Summer is the time for guests and all of ours decided to come in July and August. What better excuse to eat out! So, we've been very busy the last few weeks enjoying lots of great food.

We've been to Wasabi before, but never like this ....

A new owner took over about 10 months ago. Once tired and rundown, it is now a bright, neat little motel (the Great House) and Japanese restaurant. The restaurant is inviting to look at and even has an outside cafe for those breezy summer days. Inside, the space is cozy and the atmosphere has a low-light intimacy.

If you like sushi, you've found your Sequim destination.

There were five of us in our group including one who considers himself educated on sushi and sashimi (sushi has rice, sashimi doesn't).

Lots of time was spent musing over the extensive menu.

Start with appetizers. Try yakidori (grilled teriyaki chicken on a skewer), gyoza (potstickers), calamari, black cod, saba (lightly salted broiled mackerel), soft shell crab, tatsuta age (lightly battered and flash fried chicken), stuffed tomatoes or mushrooms, or agedashi (lightly fried tofu with tempura sauce). Negima sounds particularly interesting: asparagus and green onions rolled in thinly sliced beef sauteed in teriyaki sauce.

You can have a full stomach and a great evening dining on appetizers alone.

But wait, there's more. Much more.

There's teriyaki and yakisoba (noodles made of wheat flour) and salads with seaweed, squid or chicken; the sunomono (meaning it's made with vinegar) or crispy salmon skin salads both with assorted fish, cucumbers and seaweed with tosazu (flavorful Japanese vinegar) vinaigrette.

In addition to fish dishes, you have your choice of beef, pork, chicken, barbecued short ribs and tofu; all in various forms, many stir fried. How about bulgoki, a satisfying blend of sweet and salt, or batter-coated and deep-fried tempura? If you like noodles, try udon, a thick wheat-based noodle served with your choice of protein.

The bento box is a charming Japanese "lunch box" presented artfully in an organized display together with your choice of meat (mainly teriyaki) but also comes with sushi or barbecued short ribs; and each served with steamed rice, salad and choice of two: tempura, gyoza (Japanese style potstickers), egg roll or the familiar California roll - what I call sushi for sissies (and I'm one of 'em).

Most items come with steamed rice and salad. The salad dressing is reminiscent of cole slaw and makes for a very refreshing side note.

Rolls, you name it - they have it - filled with fish and veggies. The names are just as interesting as the roll itself. The spider roll has deep fried soft shell crab, avocado, cucumber and imitation crab meat. Or try the dynamite roll, the hot night roll or even the Las Vegas roll (deep-fried cream cheese, avocado, eel and imitation crab meat). How Las Vegas got into this mix I have no idea - but it sure sounds interesting!

For $49.95, two or three can share the Love Boat: teriyaki chicken, prawn and vegetable tempura, egg roll, California roll and salmon, tuna, hamachi (yellow tail), albacore and ebi (shrimp) sushi. What a feast for both eye and palette.

Our meal began with the American tradition of a complimentary "starter." I think the owner wanted to make our wait more pleasurable: They were packed and short-handed on this visit. To our table came a plate of steamed fresh edamame (soy beans for those new to the term). I gotta tell ya, this was absolutely delicious. I've had raw edamame, and of course those beans make everything from tofu to ice cream, but raw never pleased my palate. But these were steamed and sprinkled with sea salt and, well, I've found a new healthy snack. However, beware! Although healthy, they are high in calories. (There went my idea for movie popcorn-sized portions in front of the TV!).

I'm not a raw fish eater at all, so I ordered safe - vegetable tempura and vegetable fried rice. The tempura batter was light - not oily - and included carrot, broccoli, onion, mushroom and my favorite, yam. The fried rice has to be the best I've ever tasted. Definitely want to order that again.

Bottom line: There are plenty of choices for the raw fish squeamish.

But everyone else was into sushi.

Our "expert" helped to make the choices. For himself he ordered a Chef's Special Roll, Killi Manjaro: Soft shell crab, spicy tuna, crab meat, unagi (Japanese fresh water eel), scallop and avocado. Although he was in seventh heaven, he asked the owner why the eel came cooked.

Sidebar: The owner is eager to please but English is a second language ... be patient, the meal is worth the extra effort.

Anyway, come to find out the eel is always cooked unless you request otherwise.

For my hubby our friend ordered eel sushi and the caterpillar roll with eel, cucumber, imitation crab meat and avocado.

Other orders were spicy tuna roll with cucumber, and tuna and salmon sushi. All met with rousing approval. Other sushi/sashimi choices include red snapper, smoked salmon, octopus, egg omelet, fly fish eggs, ikura (salmon roe) and scallop.

A word about wasabi. Not just the restaurant's namesake, wasabi is Japanese horseradish that's served as a light green paste. Sushi and sashimi is nothing without wasabi. Everyone has their own way of mixing it with just the right addition of soy sauce. It's an art. A little too much and you get a real nasal rush. Around the table people will suddenly stop in midsentence and their face will flush as they wallow in their wasabi moment. As far as my hubby is concerned, it ain't hot enough until it bubbles the shellac off on the table. His mixture left his face bright red. Others weren't so daring.

And then there's sake, fermented from rice, it's the traditional Japanese alcoholic drink. Wasabi's comes in portion-sized bottles stored in their glass-fronted refrigerator by the door. Contrary to popular belief, hot sake doesn't give the best experience. In fact, warming it can mask the flaws of an inferior brew. The sake offered at Wasabi was perfect chilled. Let yours stand for a few minutes before imbibing - it brings out the best flavor. Also available are Japanese beers.

All our friends agreed this was a definite re-do on their next visit.

I didn't even look for dessert

on the menu. For once I was so full, there wasn't even room for jello.

For those worried about allergies, they do not cook with MSG.



WASABI Japanese Sushi

740 E. Washington St.

683-8773

Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Sunday 4-9 p.m.



Price rating:

$ very inexpensive

$$ inexpensive

$$$ pricey

$$$$ expensive

WASABI: $$



Shelly Taylor and her husband relocated to the peninsula from California and are active in property tax reform issues. By her own admission, Taylor likes to eat.









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