There is nothing sadder than having two plates of gorgeous maki arrive at your table and realizing your camera’s memory card is still tucked into your laptop. As it is, I’ll do my best to paint a mental picture of the sushi artistry that Watami creates.
After enjoying the gorgeous dance scenes and creeping madness of Black Swan at the Princess Twin, a friend and I turned our feet down King in search of eats. I’d been eying Watami since “Opening Soon” signs showed up in Charbries’ darkened windows, and suggested it as we passed by.
We ducked in, and were shown to a table between the crackling fireplace and a brightly-lit fishtank; both features, along with the artwork, created a comfortable and mildly upscale ambience that hinted at the attention to detail to come with our food. Watami’s decorative palette is bold – warm reds, browns, and blacks – but the lighting makes it welcoming, not overwhelming.
The menu is detailed, clear, and honestly massive – particularly as the “a la carte” options include sashimi, sushi, maki, or hand-roll styles (choose one of nineteen varieties of seafood/fish, then choose your prep method). I plan to come back for that, and sit by the chefs and watch them work their magic. It was one of my favorite things to do when I was eating out in Japan, although my absolute favorite chef was the main ramen cook at this tiny diner literally called “Ramen Stand” in my hometown. He never stopped moving, and to this day, I’ve never found ramen to match his.
Digressions aside, although the Ginger Wasabi roll (fresh salmon with ginger and wasabi) and Kansai Sushi (“fresh fish on top of Kansai style box sushi” – sounding a lot like a blend between Kansai (Osaka-Kyoto region) and Tokyo-style chirashizushi) caught my eye, and we puzzled over the Tex Mex roll (diced tomatoes with fresh tuna and avocado on top of a California roll? Fusion, sometimes you break my brain) – we decided on the Spider Roll and Watami on King.
The rolls offer a lot of selection, but are accessible to most levels of sushi enthusiast; several of the more complex rolls are elaborations on the shrimp tempura (Red/Black/Green Dragons; Ice&Fire) and California rolls (Rainbow/Watami/Tex Mex), and Watami also makes vegetarian and cooked rolls (Teriyaki Chicken or Beef.)
S and I watched the Sushi Lover Boat for Two sail past us, and almost changed our order (huge and gorgeous; come with an appetite) but we were definitely happy with our choices when they arrived.
Great attention was paid to plating; the Spider roll was plated over a spiderweb of sauce, and the cooked soft-shell crab wrapped up in a whirlwind of lettuce, tobiko, and sushi rice was delicious. I particularly liked how two of the crab legs spiked up from the rolls, giving them an extra sense of drama… and more seafood for us to enjoy.
The Watami on King rolls were a tasty multi-bite affair. Definitely not for purists, these California rolls are topped by a seafood salad turned pink by the mixture of mayo and tobiko that keeps it together. I will admit to raising an eyebrow (they reminded me of nothing quite so much as cupcakes in appearance) but restaurants usually don’t attach their names to something questionable, so we grinned at each other and dug in. Yum. Like chirashizushi, this dish is a good way for chefs to use fish that might not be shaped perfectly for sashimi, and I caught tastes of salmon, tuna, crabstick, and hamachi as I ate through the salad to get to the California roll (to continue the metaphor, much like eating the icing first!)
We debated ordering a third roll to share, but decided to take a walk to give our stomachs room for dessert. With tax and tip (and tea, which I think was provided at no charge and speedily refilled by our excellent server), our bill was in the mid-twenties; definitely a solid late lunch.
One thing that caught my eye about Watami was that they almost always have a long table for 8-10 people set against the front window, and that this table is almost always full. I’m hoping to organize a dinner that will need that table – I think that it will make for a fun night out, and be a great chance to try a lot of sushi. Maybe by then they will have added umeshu, which is a Japanese plum wine, to their menu; a girl can hope!