The Bon Vivant Gourmets were invited to the private opening ceremony for Plano's newest Japanese restaurant - Wa Kubota. Upon arrival, guests were directed to a free flowing bar offering various sakes, beers, and international wines. In attendance were city leaders, prominent heads of businesses, and even the Consul-General from the Japanese Consulate in Houston!
The ceremonies began with presentations in Japanese about the long journey towards opening a restaurant in Plano (their first venture outside of Japan), how Japanese cuisine is a fundamental and integral aspect of Japanese culture, and then welcoming everyone to thoroughly enjoy themselves for the evening. The owners then each grabbed a mallet and banged open the drum shown above, revealing a vat of pure sake. They took the square cups, filled them with sake, and passed them around to the guests. With the other restaurants in Osaka, the food (Bon Vivant) capital of Japan, and Nagoya, this seemed only natural.
It was explained in the Japanese language welcome ceremony that all of the artifacts presented around the restaurant are original historical pieces worthy of a museum. Some pieces are also originals from famous operas or represent ancient traditions.
The ambiance combines traditional wood concepts with modern chic. All of the staff are Japanese adding to the authentic appeal.
We have traveled the world and found some absolutely amazing Japanese cuisine; often in places you'd least expect it (Hong Kong/Dubai/Houston/San Diego/Santa Fe). Each place that excels at the highest levels has the same understanding in common: use of only the highest quality fresh fish and a deep knowledge of the importance and proper presentation of rice. Wa Kubota is such a place.
Decadent by any standard, the Nigiri were very abundant in size and just waiting to try some had everyone trembling with anticipation! To make matters worse, the chefs behind the sushi counter were very busy rapidly making the second round in anticipation of crowds rushing the table like the front doors of a Walmart on black Friday! This of course is an imagined caricature and the line flowed steadily all night with chefs replenishing dishes as needed. It must be said, the service was absolutely impeccable! Wait staff wondered around asking to bring anything to anyone, chefs automatically brought platters to tables, and people mingled amongst various tables in a very sociable manner.
Each piece of Nigiri had a very luscious texture followed by a rich flavor: the Hamachi (Yellow Tail) was as rich and succulent as the Sake (Salmon) and one of our personal favorites. It had a graceful hint of sweetness followed by its elegant natural flavor. The Sake was plush and the flavor exploded in the mouth, the maki and uramaki (rolls) melted their flavors together almost causing one to close their eyes and softly hum! And then there was the Unagi (Freshwater Eel) gently topped with a hoisin sauce - one of the Bon Vivants is a particular aficionado of Unagi Dons and was most impressed with the Unagi Nigiri! Soft, warm, and rich, it possessed the natural sweetness of the eel and then was perfectly balanced with the rice and sauce. It should also be noted that the wasabi appeared to have been made from scratch using the root.
When guests arrived at their tables, they found platters of various Tempura already in place. Many items were of various meats and bacon wrapped asparagus (not shown), various vegetables (including lotus root, not shown), shrimps, and scallops. The tempura was perfectly battered with just a dusting of flakes and not a second longer than needed in the fryer. This gave a dry exterior with a natural, moist, pure interior for a perfectly balanced tempura!
Another aspect that separates the best from the rest (other than the quality of fresh fish and knowledge of rice) is an ability to innovate. Innovation is key. Wa Kubota presented guests with what we called "Uni cups." Each glass contained Uni (Sea Urchin - very rare and hard to acquire despite Santa Barbara being the world's foremost purveyor. Incidentally, most of Japan's Sea Urchin are sent to Japan from Santa Barbara!), Ikura (Salmon Roe), a poached egg, tomato, and an avant-gardist conceptualization of the south - Okra! Encased in a gelatin shell, it all worked beautifully!
Towards the end of the evening, a tray of small bowls came to our table. Inside each bowl were Soba noodles, a dash of house-made Wasabi, tempura onions, seaweed slices, scallions and a small amount of broth in the bottom. Absolutely amazing!
Dessert was innovative and imaginative! Presented inside a sake box, this version of strawberry shortcake was brilliant! Layered from the bottom: sponge cake, strawberry mousse, gelatin, fresh whipped cream, strawberries, mint, and a delicious strawberry macaroon! An absolutely perfect way to end a perfect evening! The Bon Vivant Gourmets will be regulars at Wa Kubota!