Restaurant review

Wasabi on Wolf Road loud, fast, more value than quality


For 35 years 195 Wolf Road was Real (and Reel) Seafood Co. Lately it has been transformed into Wasabi, an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant and sibling of the original Saratoga Springs which is a great way to stretch the belts and not break the bank. Sushi, sashimi, maki rolls, noodles and apps are all there for $ 25 per person ($ 27 on weekends).

No matter how you cut it, wasabi is great value for the money. Where you could typically pay $ 5 for two pieces of salmon sushi (fish over rice), here you can play the role of an indulgent parent with a team of hungry teens or not be afraid to split the bill with your office pod. . Of course, there are rules: a two hour deadline and a penalty for any sushi you don’t eat. While you are only charged for uneaten sushi, you cannot order a surplus and wrap it for an absent friend. A loud roar means this is not the place for a business meeting or a date, but I will be back. For now, take out is largely good news: speed plus value, a combo that’s hard to beat.

Dining at Wasabi is as peaceful an experience as a Walmart supermarket on Black Friday. Despite visible efforts in interior design, the sound barrier is part of an assault coordinated with a video game soundtrack. I struggled to locate it at first, but the layout and densely populated dining area feels like a cafeteria and bingo on a cruise ship. While dangling silver balls and a blue light strip would suit a sleek hotel bar, the house’s ruthless white lights have surgical power, and we cast envious glances at the dimly lit bar where, for the instant, without an alcohol license, you can dine alone with your soda or hot tea.

We got our first idea of ​​the impending experience seconds after entering the restaurant, the host coordinating new arrivals as an air traffic controller. Some had reservations, although the staff couldn’t find any trace of ours, and the stream of diners continually coming out with red faces and tight bellies is like the line disembarking from a fairground ride. A man stops to push our flaky menu with his “must try” choices and effusive praise. He pumps air with his fist in a display of happiness at will. Stuffed on a Tuesday. His second visit in a week.

Let’s stick with the positives for now. Speed ​​of service means our pen marked menu is pulled away from the table and tiny plates arrive. I don’t mean it literally, although drone delivery can only add to the sense of the Disneyfication. Tiny plates of seaweed salad and dressed avocado hit the table, followed by sashimi – butter salmon, silver striped sea bass, waterlogged light tuna from an obvious thaw, and octopus no more. mellow than most of the United States. Seared pepper tuna in a tangy ponzu frosting is sumptuous; jalapeño snapper is vibrant with citrus yuzu and sliced ​​hot peppers; our select sushi – mackerel, salmon, tamago and squid – are carefully draped over firm rice lobes.

But speed comes from a battery of staff members ricocheting around tables, making quick decisions to pull plates or pass inquiries, fill water or snatch menus. Too often, waiters’ hands hover over unfinished food and we push them away. Had to repeat 20 times that the glass staff kept trying to refill was not water but tonic from the bar. It is a victim with no assigned server to know what you have or what you need. The service is happening at you, not for you. You’re on the clock, but it’s their clock, timed to end your ride. The menus are returned to us cleaned, prompting every passing waiter to rush us to order more. Constant contact makes it impossible for uninterrupted conversation in a rippling sea of ​​high and low plates, readiness assessments and invitations. More water, more tea? Ready for more? Finished or not? Stop and go. It is an interactive game. Buckle up. You paid to play.

It takes a few steps to master the command. With the sushi, it’s a literal delivery of one piece at a time, while the breaded prawns and bang pow scallops arrive in a fried trio – unfortunate for us, having ordered both but unable to savor one. either because of the pasty taste.

In no time at all, the list of less popular plates becomes clear as they sit on the table and we ask the waiters to take them away. The seaweed shell of the cone-shaped temaki rolls is wet and hard, with bites requiring an indelicate two-handed tug. Like tuna tartare, a spicy tuna filling is chopped into a paste. Chopped scallops lack body, offering an extremely smooth texture. A slice of crepe with scallions is a tasteless dough; yakitori beef and chicken skewers, although thin, are dipped in a viscous, sweet glaze; the stir-fried noodles are overcooked; the maki rolls are pasty with wet rice and scribbles of sauces and cream.

Around us, the chatty, gulping theater continues at full speed, with waiters spinning like birds of prey.

We are welcome to order special rolls and opt for the recommended Mango Tango shrimp tempura, wrapped in mango and dipped in mango eel sauce. I’ve never had anything sweeter that wasn’t dessert. There’s not a hint of soggy tempura crunch, not in this Golden Age (soft shell crab tempura), American Dream (spicy scallop tempura) or location specific 195 Wolf Road (shrimp tempura). ). Each is topped with an extreme height of minced fish, avocado, and sticky sauce until such monstrous creations fill the mouth with a vast, sweet porridge we can’t handle. As the plates get sweeter and more fried, the dining experience approaches the last hour of an all-day Chinese buffet. And as we hit the two hour mark, our table is unserviced and leftovers are ready to be assessed for unauthorized waste.

This is tricky, as leftover sushi is charged $ 1 per piece, sashimi is $ 2, and it adds up. We earn a $ 17 penalty for food not eaten, even if there was some left over because we didn’t like it, not because we ran out of stomach space. When informed of this, our server audibly gasps and tells us that Mango Tango is a bestseller, along with the American Dream.


So let’s get back to where we started: Wasabi is loud, brash, theatrical by design, and good value for money, if you don’t expect uni or tuna to be sold by grades of fat. The disappointments did not diminish the brighter start, when hopes were high and the first plates of sashimi were fresh and fresh. My guest and I decide that any first visit is about strategy. Others might like the sweet and sticky Mango Tango, but we’ll bank our knowledge and order smart next time around. Go on your birthday and you’ll even eat for free.

Susie Davidson Powell is a freelance British food writer from upstate New York. Follow her on Twitter, @SusieDP.

Wasabi

Or: 195 Wolf Road, Albany
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday, 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Price: All-you-can-eat buffet dinner, $ 24.99 weekdays, $ 26.99 weekends; lunch, $ 16.50 Monday to Friday. A la carte menu also available.
Info: 518-818-1458 and wasabialbany.com




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