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Wasabi Sushi is a hot destination

Wasabi Sushi

5443 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth. 817-370-9700, www.thewasabi.com

Posted 1:13pm on Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2010

A few years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find first-rate sushi south of Interstate 20 in Fort Worth. The Camp Bowie corridor (Tokyo Cafe and Hui Chuan) and downtown district (Piranha Killer Sushi and the now-defunct Midori Sushi) cornered the market for a while. But Fort Worth has grown, and so has its sushi scene, which is now conquering the bastion of suburbia -- the strip center -- to good effect.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at Wasabi Sushi, a 3-year-old establishment off South Hulen Street and south of South Drive in the Remington Park shopping plaza. If we're really going to play Old School Fort Worth, the strip center once featured a Harrigan's restaurant, Sound Warehouse and a Jason's Deli. Oh, how times (and, apparently, palates) have changed. "Raw fish" has long since entered the mainstream, and if the folks at Wasabi have anything to do with it, it'll be here to stay.

On a recent weekday night, we found ourselves in the area and caught an early dinner. After settling in, we noticed the walls are fittingly colored wasabi-green, and touches of cool ceramic tile and Asian art render the room serene. A flat-screen, tuned on this night to the U.S. Open, hovers over the sushi bar, adding yet another touch of green.

Perhaps it was foreshadowing for our food, all of which proved exceedingly fresh and surprisingly generous in portion. My companion, a sashimi man whose disdain for white rice is near-legendary in our house, raved about his platters of tuna and red snapper ($13.50 and $10.75, five pieces each). The tuna, especially, stood out, thanks to its buttery texture.

After much deliberation over the special roll menu, we chose the caterpillar roll ($9.95) and the Fuji Mountain Roll ($13.95). The former -- grilled eel, topped with avocado and eel sauce -- was tasty but a bit average. The avocado pieces were cut feather-thin and didn't add texture to the roll, which they would have, if they were sliced a bit thicker. A quibble, sure, but an issue for this avocado lover.

The Fuji roll, however, was a showstopper. Lobster, radish sprout, yellow radish, cucumber, spicy tuna and flying fish roe are wrapped with soy paper and topped with tempura flakes. The yin and yang of the lobster's sweet meat and the slightly bitter greens, plus the crunch factor from the cucumber, made us immediately vow to make a return visit to Wasabi.

Miso soup and a small salad with a honey-mustard-type dressing were delivered to the table before the sushi, tasty and perfunctory gratis sides.

Wasabi has some standard-fare nonsushi dishes as well. We tried the yakisoba noodles with chicken ($10). The vermicelli-esque noodles with julienned vegetables were not exciting, but they were a well-executed take on the classic. The wide-ranging menu also features combination dinners (such as grilled chicken teriyaki with shrimp and vegetable tempura, egg roll, spring roll and California roll for $17) and larger entrees such as the Garlic Infused Chilean Sea Bass ($22). One of our friends who recommended Wasabi raved about the teriyaki steak combination.

Our server was pleasant and knowledgeable, happy to answer our numerous questions about the special rolls, of which the restaurant features some 30 variations. Sushi purists might thumb their noses at these wildly creative concoctions -- the Gold Rush Roll includes fried lobster, asparagus, mustard and mild hot sauce, yellowtail, seaweed powder and is dusted with 24K gold flakes -- but they add to the fun.

Wasabi Sushi manages to be upscale and welcoming. Its above-average fare merits repeated visits, even if it means braving the South Hulen Street traffic to do so.

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