Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 15 April 2014
Fast and Fresh Sushi To-Go at Newly Opened Wasabi

Wasabi Sushi and Bento
A Restaurant Review
561 Seventh Avenue at 40th Street, Times Square
Getting There: A,C,E,N,Q,R,S,1,2,3 to Times Square – 42nd Street

Blog: Wasabi Opens in Times Square

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Fast, fresh and reasonably priced, the story behind Wasabi Sushi and Bento‘s first outpost in the United States is a story not all that dissimilar to many of the local brick and mortar shops that originated as vendors in bustling markets. As so many businesses have outgrown the likes of Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg and the Hester Street Fair and in the process have become viable standalone businesses, such is Wasabi’s story which in just over a decade has exploded from a small food stall into one of the most widely expanded franchises in the United Kingdom. With its corner location in the Fashion District constantly busy since its grand opening just a few short weeks ago, the outfit looks poised to conquer Manhattan next with its line of fast authentic Japanese cuisine.

Upon our first visit to Wasabi, it was easy to notice the chain’s model for success. First, the space is both modern and clean looking with shiny bright walls amid an uncluttered decor where everything appears perfectly in place. The opaque green neon chairs and transparent tables are particularly inviting even though the food being served is intended to be taken on the road with you. And even at its busiest, the restaurant never feels like a frenzy despite the potential lack of available seating. It is Times Square after all.

Wasabi’s strengths lie in the uniqueness of its business where the bustling chefs in the kitchen are constantly preparing freshly made packaged sushi throughout the day, every day. Diners are given the opportunity to select from pre-selected combination platters or choose individually wrapped pieces which are meant to be seamlessly taken to go. While there are hot items which are ideal for in-house dining like soups, noodles and a tasty plates like their “Grilled Teriyaki Chicken” ($7.95) deliciously served over a bed of cabbage and fluffy white rice, their array of sushi is the true highlight of the fast-casual style restaurant.

Wasabi individually wraps its different rolls allowing guests to pick and choose their favorites instead of having to adhere to a chef’s selection of fish. Now, because each pair of rolls is priced under $3.50, it can be fairly difficult to exercise some self-restraint when looking at shelf after shelf of fresh sushi like it were candy- and frankly, the cost can add up quickly. But that said, there is an excellent amount of variety that allows guests to customize exactly what their appetites desire like Maki (rolls with two or more fillings wrapped in rice), Gunkan (toppings on top of rice), Temaki (a traditional sushi cone) or the Onigiri (a large triangle filled with rice and toppings).

There is no shortage of different options at Wasabi Sushi and Bento and tasked with the prospect of the individual sushi in front of us, we probably went a little overboard. The “Roasted Salmon Onigiri” ($2.75) is a must because of its sheer heartiness. The knish style delicacy pairs cooked fish, rice and seafood admirably especially when dipped in packets of soy sauce. We also chomped on the tasty “Spicy Tuna Maki” (2 for $3.50), “Salmon Nigiri” (2 for $2.00), “Sesame Salmon Gunkan” (2 for $3.50) and the surprisingly tasty “Spicy Grilled Chicken Maki” (2 for $3.50). Though most often sushi is meant to be savored, sometimes you just need to grab some food and go- especially living in Manhattan. And unless you feel comfortable with a tray of fresh fish from the likes of Duane Reade, Wasabi Sushi and Bento has created a place that combines traditionally authentic Japanese inspired flavors in our fast-paced metropolis and it does so deliciously.

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