Tex Wasabi’s: Celebrity Chef Babysitter’s Club?

Guy Fieri
Guy Fieri
from SFGate.com

Yes, that’s right, I know you can’t believe it, but the long awaited, much anticipated, greatly elongated, and mildly frustrated opening of “Tex Wasabi’s” has come. As of Friday, February 9, the doors are open and the chicken sashimi is flying off the shelves. What, you didn’t know it was open yet? Well, you should have been paying more attention rather than sitting there watching American Idol and scratching yourself. Ok, ok, I’ll cut you some slack. They are not “officially” open according to the staff there, but rather “unofficially” open to anyone that walks through the doors. In other words, this is training week, or training month depending on how many kinks they find in the system. The grand opening hasn’t been officially scheduled, and none of their advertising says that they’re open for business. So buyer beware, until the grand opening, don’t come with heightened expectations or lack of patience. Would this stop Sac-Eats from dropping by to have a taste? Hell naw! I’m Sac-Eats bitch! Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride, ain’t nothing gonna hold me down, oh no, I’ve got to keep on eating.

So, due to the fact that TW’s was not officially open, please take everything I say here with a little bit of caution. I’m sure that by the time you get through the 106 DVR’ed episodes of Evening Shade you have saved and actually make it over to Arden Way, they’ll have most of the kinks worked out. That being said, let’s talk about the evening.

First of all, for those of you scratching your heads right now, here’s the scoop. Tex Wasabi’s, a revolutionary fusion of southern barbecue and sushi is the brainchild of TV personality and reality celebrity Guy Fieri. Guy, known for his playful attitude and spiked blond hair, was omnipresent throughout the evening, handshaking with patrons, taking pictures with diners and making children smile. Immediately likable and seemingly 100% genuine, Guy made everyone feel at ease. As Sacramento’s first “Celebrity Chef” restaurateur, Guy has some big expectations, but seems like the type who can handle the heat.

The first thing he has done right is the wonderful renovation of his space on Arden Way, just east of Howe Ave. The former digs of a dicey Chinese greasy spoon, the space has been revitalized with just the right amount of open space, modern lighting and bar neon. The installation of an oversized fireplace with conversation nook surrounding it is an especially nice and luxurious touch. The space has been separated into and upper and lower dining room, the upper being a little more ‘restaurant-like’ and the lower a little more “bar-like.” The one strange aspect, however, was the prevalence of 6-top tables. As I looked around, not one four-person table did I see. Call it a quirk, or call it genius.

The reservation cum seating aspect was a little disjointed as we waited 15 minutes for our table after calling the day before for a reservation. Even then, the hostess attempted to seat us in a desolate table in the back corner next to the somewhat open kitchen and bussing station in the lower room. We balked and said we’d wait at the bar until a table in the upper room was available. While at the bar, we ordered a few fancy drinks that were all tasty and medium-high in price at $6-$9. We didn’t opt for a “Bowla” which was a 64 oz. beverage served in a bowl and obviously meant for more than one person, or one Andre-the-Giant-sized alcoholic.

We were shown our table about 10 minutes later, right next to the aforementioned fireplace and were told that the conversation area, filled with leather settees, was reserved for VIPs, but if we wanted to sit there, we probably would not get kicked out. After that admonition, we kept to our plebian table and perused the menu. It was at this time that we noticed the rather large number of children throughout the establishment. A good third of the diners on Saturday night were under 12 years old, and, were we to believe the hostess, VIPs, since the children spent most of the evening running through, sitting on or laying around the leather settees of the fireplace area. The kids were neither distracting nor unwelcome in the fun, laid-back atmosphere of the joint, and could barely be heard over the rather loud mix of Ozzie, Skynrd and Sinatra that blared through the dining room.

We started off with appetizers and hit a gem on the first try, the “Vegas Fries.” What are Vegas Fries, you ask? Well, they are super crispy slender french fries covered in buffalo sauce, dusted with garlic and served with a side of bleu cheese wasabi sauce. Forget that Bobby Flay a-hole, this is what fusion cuisine is all about. We also sampled the calamari, which was average. We passed on some other good-looking appetizers such as the Koi fish tacos (real Koi is not used), pork sliders and various lettuce wraps.

Next up were the entrees. We opted to go for only sushi and forego the barbecue dishes on this particular night, ordering four rolls of typical makeup and one “Gringo Roll” that was filled with barbecued pork, avocado and french fries. Starting with the “Gringo Roll,” our selection was known as the “Jackass” and was a little dry for my taste, and would have been better if served with a side of barbecue sauce for dipping. I later found out that this roll was supposed to be served with a chipotle mayo on it, but a mistake in the kitchen had ours going out “sans-sauce.” We found several other such discrepancies with our other dishes, ingredients being left off, sauces not added, etc. We alerted our waitress to this fact and she sent a manager over who graciously offered to replace one of our rolls, but since we had already eaten the whole thing, a replacement didn’t seem necessary. The rolls that were served as advertised were good without being spectacular, containing the expected spicy tuna, tempura shrimp, avocado, cucumber and other asundries.

Overall, I wanted to see a more playful integration of the two themes of the restaurant, like a side of coleslaw or baked beans with your sushi, or a soy based barbecue sauce on grilled albacore, maybe even replace rice on some of the rolls with grits, or spoonbread. The appetizers looked like the highlight of the menu, with the barbecue dishes leaning towards traditional (ribs, chicken, pulled pork) and the sushi staying on the conservative side of the aisle. Next time I’ll be sampling the barbecue offerings and maybe a few more Gringo Rolls. I expect that some of the serving/plating/seating glitches will be resolved in a few weeks and look forward to trying Tex Wasabi’s again. Next time though, I’m definitely bringing my 8-year-old nephew, then maybe I’ll get the VIP treatment.

Tex Wasabi’s– Arden Way at Howe Ave, Sacramento

Food**1/2 Service*** Atmosphere****

24 thoughts on “Tex Wasabi’s: Celebrity Chef Babysitter’s Club?”

  1. LOL! Love the VIP seating, apparently stands for very impatient pre-schoolers.

    Great review Sac-eats, as usual. I’ll mention it at the food forums.

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  2. Like the review. You are totally right. I just ate at Tex Wasabi’s too and I have to say, that it was a huge disappointment. Service was ok but not the greatest and the food was terrible. I ordered the ribs which had no flavor and were way too dry and the spicy tuna roll I had was so bad that I had to spit it out. It smelled and tasted like it was old. I have been eating sushi for 15 years so I know what fresh sushi tastes like. Mikuni’s has spoiled me but I thought I gave Tex Wasabi’s a try because of all the hype but I expected a lot more from a celebrity chef. Shame on you Guy Fieri for raising false hopes, only to be let down. Do not recommend.

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  3. You have to remember they’re still in their “soft opening” which translates to working out the bugs until the actual opening. At least the Sac Bee’s M. Dunn waits 6 weeks after opening for the kinks to be straighten out & returns 3 different times before posting his reviews! Eventually the Wall of Sushi will offer 100 rolls – you try remember all those and how to make every single one! I recommend to the posters to return in a month or two…And yes TW love kids!!!! Bring them on. You don’t like dining with kids sit at the bar or come in after 10 when most are tucked away in bed!

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  4. Yeah, but when’s the last time Dunne called his readers “bitches”?
    But yes, I agree that diners should reserve some of their judgement until the place is in full swing which is why I wrote “So, due to the fact that TW’s was not officially open, please take everything I say here with a little bit of caution. I’m sure that by the time you get through the 106 DVR’ed episodes of Evening Shade you have saved and actually make it over to Arden Way, they’ll have most of the kinks worked out.” Thanks for reminding us that Rome wasn’t built in a day…although the Berlin Wall was, and see how well that worked out.

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  5. The worst. Slow and disjointed service. Some food came right away, some came when we should have been paying and leaving. The gumbo that was advertised with a bunch of good stuff in it was all rice, peppers and sauce. One order of grilled albacore was still frozen when served. Items all charged to the wrong bills and it took probably 20 minutes to get the bill squared away. When we talked to blondie by choice Guy fieri, he mentioned having to get the kinks worked out. What? You should have got them worked out before I came there because now I will never go back. Oh and the sushi is all mixed up trying to be cute and cool, some of it fell apart while eating so I guess the sushi chef needs to get some things worked out too. I won’t go back and don’t recommend it to anyone else either unless you want frozen food, poor service, and lousy over rated grub.

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  6. worse sushii ever,ive had better at a buufet table,the service wasnt much better either,my wife and i actually went to tokyo fro’s afterwards to circumvent our dissapointment.once the trendiness of this place wears of it will fail.

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  7. A friend who lives near Tex Wasabi’s told me that the food was terrible and to not even think about eating there. After reading these reviews, I think I’ll take her advice.

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  8. We have eaten at TW in Santa Rosa on numerous occasions and we LOVE the food there. Those of you who aren’t willing to give it a chance due to someone else’s opinion are crazy! I am sure that the one in Sacramento will be just as wonderful once it gets going and all of the kinks are worked out. I myself can’t wait to eat at the one in Sacramento. I miss Guys good food from home!
    I can assure you this Guy knows what he is doing when it comes to food,drinks, and hospitality.
    Give him a few weeks and then test it out, I myself would reccomend the onion rings if they are on the menu at the Sac rest. YUMMY!!!

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  9. Good point. Why take anyone’s opinion? In fact, from now on, I’m going to write only factual pieces with no opinion whatsoever.

    EXTRA! EXTRA! Tex Wasabi’s is open in Sacramento. They serve food.

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  10. My husband went to Tex Wasabis on March 27, 2007. We were very hopeful since I love bbq and my husband is always up for some good California rolls. I am sorry to say that the ribs were so dry that we could hardly cut them. The bbq chicken was so dry that NFL should have been imprinted on the side of it. The first time the garlic fries came out they were cold and soggy. The second time the garlic fries came out they were so hard and still cold that you could not eat them. My husband said the California rolls were okay. For the price of the meal and the portion size, it is way over priced. I have tried bbq all over California and Nevada, so I do have places I can compare this meal to. We even asked our waitress if the cook was having an off night. I will never go here again. This was the worse meal my husband and I had since we could remember. I am so sorry to give a negative review, but I wish the circumstances were different.

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  11. Nasty, nasty, nasty! Went during week of 3/26, after all of their kinks should have been ironed out. First, the positives: Service was reasonably quick and the server was very nice, although she was rather pushy on some of her recommendations. Environment was clean and pretty nice looking. The jackass rolls were OK, but nothing particularly special. Negatives: Food was waaaay overpriced. Food quality was terrible, not average, not so-so, not meh, but really bad. Ribs and chicken were so dry as to be virtually inedible. All of this could be written off to the kitchen having a “bad night”, as another poster noted; however, don’t expect to return anything to the kitchen with the expectation that you’ll get a better product. My partner and I returned the garlic fries because they were cold and stale-tasting. The server sent them back, and fifteen minutes later, she brought back…the same very same fries! I know because I discretely mark any food I return for this very reason. Apparently the kitchen put the fries under a heat lamp or a microwave and tried to re-warm them, but they came back hard as a rock. For this reason alone I would never go back or recommend this place to anyone. This restaurant probably might please people go to places like this just for the hip factor, or the girly-girl drinks, and who don’t care about sh*t quality, but if you’re looking for a serious restaurant, forget it! I predict this restaurant will be gone within two years, probably less.

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  12. It’s been almost three months since the opening of Tex Wasabi’s, and it still stinks. We went there for lunch today, and while we got there before the lunch rush, service was woefully slow. (Why is it they’re so slow to take orders and serve food, but the bill always comes so quickly?)

    Two of my dining companions expressed specific disdain. My South Carolina-native work friend clutched her pearls at what they call “Southern Barbecue.” Ever the Southern lady, I think she may have even thrown in a “bless his heart” in reference to Guy’s effort as she sipped her tea. My hardcore Texan work friend said, “Y’all shouldn’t put ‘Tex’ in your name if ya can’t do it right.”

    Still, the only crowd pleaser turned out to be the Vegas Fries, which I could probably whip up with a bag of Ore-Idas, our deep fryer, and some sauce they more than likely sell at Eve’s Market.

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  13. oh my god this is by far the worst dining experiment ever. i sat at the sushi bar and ask questions to my sushi chef but didn’t get any kind of eye contact. i later found out he didn’t speak english. i should of realize that whne i saw his badana with the mexican flag on it. Whats up with that, why are all their sushi chefs wearing mexico badanas. Anyways i ordered a tootsie roll which consisit of salmon, cream cheese, and deep fried. Half an hour later it came to me hard as a rock. I think i nearly broke a tooth. I don’t know how this place will make it but good luck because they will need it. P.S. Next time yall open a restaurant make sure your chefs speak english so i can return the food back to them.

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  14. Strike 1: First time in March was 5 out of 10 rating, slow service, some ok items, some dry, many missing things and requests ignored/forgotten. Oh, and its loud, not that I expected some intimate dining experience, but i couldn’t hear anyone at our table over the music.
    strike 2: Second time in April was 2 out of 10. rating, long waits in nearly empty lunch seating, service was horrible, every item ordered wrong or missing something, and over cooked or dry. One item had something foreign in it, and took 30 mins before anyone came by to tell them about the “stuff”, so when they brought out the replacement item another 25 mins later we were done and had to return to work – and no discount or anything. Hardly an apology too.
    I will never return here even if someone else is picking up the bill.
    I love BBQ, I love Sushi, I love terriyaki. This is none of that. Good idea, bad execution. It will fail sometime in the next 9-12 months and someone will restart something in a great venue. What should it be?

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  15. Oh my goodness!!!We ate at TW on July 22…Way after any kinks should have been worked out but my guess is it just keeps getting WORSE!!
    BBQ beef Brisket I ordered was terrible each slice was over half pure fat. This first plate was sent back and when I received the second plate the meat had clearly been put in the microwave it was tough, burned, and dried out. I didn’t bother sending this back because I was afraid of what I would get next. My husband ordered Dark side of the Moon which left a lot to be desired. We had spent the day at the zoo and the food at the AMPM style food court they have was actually better then the meal we had at Tex Wasabi. The food is so AWFUL I would NEVER eat there again.

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  16. Ate here today, it was AWFUL! The service was so slow, it took them 30 mins to bring out our food, then 20 mins to get the bill paid after we were done. The beef brisquit was dry, the cole slaw had no flavor and the portion of veggies was ridiculously small. It’s been open for a while so I’ve decided it doesn’t deserve another try. Big disappointment…

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  17. Hi. Had lunch at this place in early September. STILL the same general description as before.

    Food portions not so great

    Service was so-so

    Considering place is still new, not too clean

    Food itself unexciting–even bland–compared to what was represented

    For BBQ, go somewhere else where they know how to do it. For Sushi, Sacramento crawls with high qulity restaurants that do a far better job.

    For a TV Chef who’s trying to build a reputation this is no way to introduce himself to Sacramento.

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  18. As a resident of Santa Rosa I laugh my butt off when people look at this loser like he is really a chef. His food at Tex Wasabi’s is worse than chain food and His Johnny Garlic resturants are even worse and on the verge of Bankruptcy. He is batting 1.000 as all his resturants are really bad! If you have no standards and like bad food. His resturants are for you but if you are expecting a fine dining experience you would be better served going to Jack int he Box!

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