Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Wasabi Modern Japanese Cuisine

The Senzai Sushi Roll is just one of several unique sushi rolls that can snatched off of the conveyor belt at Wasabi. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)
The Senzai Sushi Roll is just one of several unique sushi rolls that can be snatched off of the conveyor belt at Wasabi. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)

Wasabi Modern Japanese Cuisine is in the center of a busy part of Tyson’s Corner Mall. Because of that, there’s a lot of foot traffic around Wasabi – people carrying bags from Forever 21 or Barnes and Noble, looking curiously as they pass by or ride the escalators that are on either side of it.

Some of them examine the eatery and quietly move on. Others lean over to their shopping buddy and wonder aloud how sushi tastes, or, more often, what’s in the center of the restaurant. That’s because Wasabi diners are usually grabbing their dishes off of a conveyor belt.

There are several places like this, kaiten sushi or sushi-go-round spots, in the Washington, D.C. area, but many people are unfamiliar with the concept. Wasabi has three other locations around the country – one in California, one in Massachusetts and one in Florida – all of which are in malls.

For the uninitiated, this how kaiten sushi works, at least at every place I’ve been to: Dishes go around on a conveyor belt, each on a plate colored to correspond with a price level and you pick the dishes you want to eat, and your waiter tallies up your total, in addition to whatever you order off the menu, at the end of your meal.

Wasabi’s plates cost between $2 – $5, which is pretty cheap. And Wasabi has a pretty diverse and original (to this diner, anyway) selection of dishes that go around on the conveyor belt, most of which are sushi rolls.

As with most Asian restaurants, Wasabi’s got plenty of vegan and vegetarian dishes, and customized versions of the conveyor belt dishes can be ordered from the server, though not everything there can be made vegan or vegetarian. And some of it shouldn’t be customized.
For example, my server at Wasabi told me that the Tofu Banh Mi Roll ($4), with tofu, pickled carrot & daikon, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro and mayo in a soy wrapper – could be made without the mayo, but who gets a banh mi without sauce?! Not this guy.

Plus, there were plenty of other intriguing, if not life-changing, dishes on Wasabi’s menu. The Sweet Potato Tempura ($4), with fried sweet potato, avocado, cucumber and sushi sauce, is engaging. It’s sweet, earthy, fresh and salty, all at the same time, and it has a delicious aftertaste.

The Senzai Roll ($4), with avocado, cucumber, carrot and shiitake, is topped with small dolops of cilantro pesto and wonderfully plated. And the Vegetable Summer Roll ($4), with avocado, carrot, cabbage, cucumber and lettuce in a rice wrapper, is refreshing, but would be a little bland without the sweet chili sauce that comes with it.

Another roll Wasabi has on its conveyor belt is the fun Peanut Butter & Jelly Roll. It’s exactly what it sounds like, but bread replaces the seaweed and rice that wrap up traditional sushi – a whimsical spin on a familiar comfort food.

The Meal-in-a-Bowl ($7.50) is the only entree option at Wasabi, but it there are a several variations that diners can create for their entree. They can choose from lo mein noodles, white or fried rice, and organic salad for their base and they can choose chicken, organic tofu, salmon or shrimp for their protein, though the salmon and shrimp come with a $2 additional charge. And they can top the base and protein with either teriyaki, anticucho or kung pao sauce.

The service was also fantastic at Wasabi. This modern Japanese eatery could be a great intermission or end to a shopping trip, but it also stands on its own as a great reason to go to the mall.

Wasabi Modern Japanese Cuisine| 1961 Chain Bridge Road | McLean | wasabisushi.com