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****