At the risk of sounding like I'm stalking the favourite restaurants of my Yelp fine dining partner in crime Gemma G, I got an opportunity to dine at Wabi and grabbed it with both hands after Gemma's hearty recommendation in her review
I thought it was odd to site what sounded like a pretty gourmet restaurant in the middle of Surrey but when I arrived in Horsham, I discovered quite a big town supporting a good number of restaurants. Wabi is located on one end of a street hosting 6 other restaurants
I was lucky enough to speak to Claire when I made my booking over the telephone. Having worked her way up from her early days as a food runner, she's now the restaurant's main food manager and she was able to answer my myraid of questions about the dishes and the philosophy of the restaurant. I had excellent service from Claire and also Lily - the perfect mix of professionally indulging the foodie geek in me as well as being relaxingly chatty and friendly
Walking into the ground floor bar area was amazing - your eye is immediately drawn to their large water feature behind the bar. Then, to the right, you see the sushi bar and robata grill, above which you'll find the specials' board and a TV playing manga movies. Having initially booked to eat in the upstairs restaurant, I immediately asked to sit in the bar area, which had a lovely chilled vibe
I sat next to the giant fish tank containing 2 lionfish (not on the menu) and an eel (on the menu but not that particular one!), which Claire pointed out to me. As a teetotaller, it was nice to see that Wabu hadn't forgotten us non-drinkers in its extensive cocktail list. I had a nice and refreshing oriental lemonade - coriander mixed with almond syrup and fresh lime juice topped with ginger beer
Having intended to order the tasting menu, I went a la carte in the end. I was a bit cheeky in asking if I could have half portions of 2 of their snacks in order to try more dishes. Well, they topped my cheeky request and gave me small portions of all 3 snacks - edamame with Maldon sea salt, crunchy tempura broad beans and light as a feather home made pork scratching with yuzu pepper aioli. I was amazed that the broad beans were only deep fried as the middles were so soft and moorish
I followed with one of my weaknesses - tempura soft shell crab. This was served with a yuzu kosho mayonnaise, which had a nice kick to enliven the crab
I followed this with tea smoked lamb chops 'Hoba-Yaki'. The chops were cooked to a perfect medium rare, retaining all their succulent juiciness and served up on a bed of sweet and sour nasu (aubergine).
For me, the acid test of a Japanese restaurant has still got to be its sushi and I ordered unagi Kabayaki and salmon, done gravadlax style, cured with beetroot and dill giving the outside of the fish a ring of red. I always order sashimi rather than sushi so that I can taste the flavour of the pure fish. Both were lovely though I'm not sure the gravadlax curing added a huge amount to the salmon. The eel was especially good with the sweet coating cutting through the satisfying oily richness of the flesh. I did feel a little guilty eating my unagi in front of the eel in the tank but Claire helpfully told me that eels are virtually blind
Lily recommended the fried (yes, fried!) apple cake, which turned out like a posh McDonalds apple pie, with a crunchy filo pastry shell encasing soft apple. A tall holder dispensed custard and a scoop of apple ice cream finished off the dish. A nice end to the meal, which wasn't too heavy
It wasn't a cheap meal but this level of innovative slightly fusiony style of modern Japanese food will cost - think Nobu, Roka and Zuma. Now, for Japanese food fans in London, don't despair - Wabi will be opening a new restaurant in Central London in late summer, so you can indulge to your heart's content soon without having to drive down into the countryside
Thanks, Gemma for the tip!
I picked up a Groupon for the deluxe tasting menu at Wabi and decided to treat my Brother for his birthday as he is a bit of a sushi fan - and my gosh, neither of us were disappointed!
Horsham may only be half an hour up the road from Brighton, but I have to say, it's not somewhere I ever think to visit. I didn't hold many hopes for the culinary scene here, but if Wabi is anything to go by, I've been missing out on a huge gastronomic adventure.
Our booking was for 9pm on a Friday night. We arrived a little early and were encouraged to try the cocktails in the bar area. The bar was buzzing and lively, and the waterfall at the back of the bar certainly caught the eye. The cocktails were innovative and tasty - I went for the Wabi spiced sling, similar to a mojito but with a touch of spice. My Brother chose the Japanese Negroni which was made from unfiltered saki, a very interesting taste.
We were seated promptly in the restaurant upstairs, with a great view overlooking the bar. As well as the main restaurant area, there were private booths and a small room where people were seated on the floor around a low table. Amazingly, the waiters had to remove their footwear every time they took food into this room!
1- Otsumami - this mixed starter dish included edemame beans sprinkled with the most amazing sea salt I have ever tasted, pork scratching that as light and fluffy as air, and sormame (broad bean) tempura that I could have eaten for the whole night and been quite contented. Who knew that the humble broad bean could deliver so much pleasure!
2 - Salmon, tuna and sea bass sashimi - the fish was beautifully textured and full of fresh flavours, perfectly complemented by the onion soy salad.
3 - Oshitashi - a seaweed-like vegetable dressed in a soy dressing and again packing a full flavour punch.
4 - Pumpkin Tempura - possibly the best pumpkin dish I have ever tasted! Almost meaty in texture, the flavour changed completely when eating it with the creamy XO and tobiko sauce that it was served with.
5 - Takikomi Gohan - rice hot pot with crab, mushrooms and wasabi. Sweet and comforting, almost like a rice pudding.
6 - Spicy Beef Toban-Yaki - deliciously tender beef served on a sizzling hot plate with onions and peppers in a soy sauce.
7 - Miso Soup.
8 - Assorted Sushi - Including salmon, tuna and white fish. Again, beautifully fresh and delicate in flavour.
9 - A choice of dessert from the main menu.
By this stage I have to admit I was struggling with the with the vast quantities of food. This is probably one of the largest meals I have had in one sitting! I went for the peanut butter ice cream which was delicious, my brother had the chocolate mouse which was divine!
Unfortunately, I had parked in a car park that closed at midnight. Our puddings didn't arrive until 11.45 so after eating half my pudding, I had to run back to the car leaving my brother, who is currently on crutches, to settle the remainder of the bill.
The car was rescued, no overnight stay in Horsham was required, but I was left feeling a little nauseous - running after a 9 course meal is not to be recommended!!
The decor looks quite authentic Japan and pleasant to be in. We were disppointed with the portions of food considering the price we paid for the box set lunch menu. BUT, they were tasty and I am not a great Sushi lover. My wife loved it.
We would go again but wouldn't have the Boxes.
Now, I know this place has had a slating from the Guardian and a slightly unfavourable review in the local paper "The Resident."
I would say; as we all commented on the day, that this is more like "event dining," for special and quirky occasions. On this occasion, it was my birthday so we used one of the upstairs "pods" for the seven of us.
Service: Minimal problems with the service. There was a time delay (quite a big one) between the time of ordering the wine and the time it took to decant and pour the wine. The wine was decanted into what I can best describe a long funnel because in the upstairs pod, one is sitting on a low table. I am not sure if this would be different had we been sitting downstairs or on one of the tables outside of the pod.
If you are familiar with the style of Wagamama's (and those who are not), food is served as and when is ready. This does mean that if there are time delays at one of the particular kitchens, one of the group may be waiting a long time for one of their dishes.
The waiter who served us was helpful in directing us to dishes we would enjoy. He explained the dishes to us and generally was friendly and polite.
Food: I enjoyed all of the food that was presented to us, some of the dishes more than others. The seared beef, for example, was delicious whereas the tempura prawns were enjoyable but distinctly average and unremarkable.
However, they are small portions and there is an encouragement to share the food between the party. As such, I am not surprised that people have expressed the view that they are walking away with empty stomachs.
For dessert, we were told about the ice cream and sorbet of the day. The ice cream of the day at the time, tasted a little on the rancid side, though we were assured that was how it was meant to taste. Not too sure. The sorbet I had was plum (and cherry possibly?) was delicious and beautifully presented in a large bowl of ice. It was just a single scoop however and I would have been keen to have had two scoops not only because it was delicious but also, one scoop of ice cream seems a bit on the mean side!!
Atmosphere: The colouring of everything does make things a little cold. Some warmer colours would help to make things a bit more relaxed. Having said that, all the waiters and waitresses we encountered were very warm and friendly which made up for this.
Overall, this was an enjoyable experience though as I mentioned previously, should perhaps be reserved for events dining and not day to day dining. The main reason for stating this was because the bill came to well over £400.
Simply amazing!!! I went to a charity private dining event and had an amazing time. We sampled various sake, learning about the process and what makes each different. Same experience for teas. Each dish was presented and explained in a comforting, relaxing, yet exciting way. It was a truly unforgettable experience!!
We all know that first impressions are all important. I entered Wabi to be presented with an impressive fish tank containing two beautiful Lion fish. The only problem being that I could hardly see them for the thick layer of algae obscuring my view--I know Japanese cooking uses a lot of seaweed, but there is no need to cultivate it in-house.
Fortunately, when I got to my table everything was clean and as it should be. On the ground floor, as well as seating, there is an impressive bar and an open kitchen.
I ordered a set menu, which consisted of a few hot dishes and a selection sushi. The food was good, if a bit unadventurous. The fish was fresh, and generally well prepared. My only complaint was that my salmon was slightly overcooked and consequently somewhat dry.
With my meal I had a local interesting citrusy ale--highly recommended. The selection at the bar was extensive, offering many options both western and Japanese. Pleasing to my palette was the good selections of both whisky and whiskey.
In summary, a good value restaurant, I would recommend it if you intend on staying for a few drinks.
Sadly, this restaurant did not live up to my expectations,.. which wasn't very high in the first place. I love Japanese food and was very disappointed not with the quality of food, but everything else. A group of us went in with set menus booked weeks in advanced. They took at least 1/2 an hour to get our first order of drinks in and did not start serving us our starter of Edamame until 3/4 of an hour later. All of us were really starving by then and were wondering about the delay. The manager approached us a couple of times to explain about the delay, but it did seem excessive. The quantity of food was measly to say the least as all of us left quite hungry at the end. For a set menu that cost £25 per person (non refundable if you couldn't make it) we had to share mostly all of the dishes between 2 (portion sizes was not even enough for one). The manager seemed very rude at times and seemed like he was doing us a favour, when we complained about the delay and how he intended to charge us £5 supplement each if we wanted sushi. Even with the sushi I was still hungry.
I wouldn't recommend this place because of the general attitude we got and cost wise - not worth it. Food was nice, but I could get better Japanese food made at home.
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