I had been looking forward to this. Wasabi, the restaurant in Quamby place, Noosa is for those of you who haven’t heard yet one of Noosa’s hottest dining venues. With the overwhelming Japanese theme to the dining experience Wasabi’s clout is also supported by a strong presence of both local and fine Australian ingredients on the menu.
This is what I am hoping will be the first in a series of 3 reviews during a recent trip to Noosa with the family. Not only do they serve to highlight three great meals that I happened to have on holiday but one thing I noticed whilst in Noosa was that it seemed to be full of fellow South Australian’s all hoping to escape for a break from winter (which is why I was there!). Therefore for all you fellow Radelaide’ers, you might like to have a look at some of these place when you are there next.
Wasabi is owned by Danielle Gjestland, 2009 Electrolux Appetite for Excellence Young Restaurateur of the Year and also features in the 2010 Gourmet Traveller Regional Restaurant of the Year as a nominee with Chef Shinichi Maeda at the helm producing some wonderful food. The restaurant is fitted out beautifully and diners have the choice of either eating traditionally on the tatami mezzanine or more ‘conventionally’ at one of the tables overlooking the river.
Amuse Bouche: Dashi with omelette strips and spring onion
A nice way to start the meal, the stock was seasoned beautifully with smoky overtones redolent of the bonito flakes. It was further brightened by the spring onion and fortified with the strips of egg and served in a way that I could only really describe as ‘cool’.
Oysters: Japanese Katsuo Gelee and Tobiko Caviar (top), Ponzu, Ikura Caviar, Lemon and Lime (bottom)
Two varieties of oyster here. The top ones with a gelee highly reminenscent of the dashi topped with chopped chives and black caviar and below with the citrus and soy flavoured ponzu sauce and salmon caviar. It was difficult to choose a favourite.
Hotate: Hervey Bay Scallops lightly grilled on the half shell with Ponzu dressing and Ikura Caviar
Whilst lovely, the accompaniment was remarkably similiar (the same?) as one of the previous oyster options. I would recommend this dish but to have as an either/or with the oysters above not both and was more a reflection of our food choices than the food itself. That being said, the scallops were perfectly cooked with a wonderful sweet and savoury sear on the outside and firm translucent interior which was complemented well with the ponzu dressing and Ikura caviar.
Minami Maguro: Southern Blue Fin Tuna. O-Toro, chu-toro, akamai – the tuna experience
A tuna sashimi plate with a nice twist, this takes 3 different cuts of tuna and presents them in a way akin to a vertical wine tasting. However in this context, we get to taste 2 different types of toro or ‘belly’ as well as akamai . O-Toro is the ‘grand daddy’, the rolls royce of tuna sashimi and is thought of in this way because of its fat content which is higher. In this way, you could almost look at O-Toro as the ‘wagyu’ of tuna. The chu-toro is less fatty and the akamai is the red meat which is leaner and what you see in most sushi and sashimi joints when they offer tuna. The O-toro is richer and carries and longer lasting mouth feel than the akamai and has more body but to be honest, for me, the akamai is good although perhaps a little chewier. If you love sashimi, you will love this!
Hiramasa Ponzu: Sashimi style hiramasa kingfish, toasted sesame, ginger chips and ponzu
One of their signature dishes, this was a real triumph. The texture of the fish was firm and held together well and the flavours from the ponzu cut through the fish nicely. The toasted sesame, ginger provided both flavour and crunch whilst the spring onions balanced out the dish perfectly. It was nice to see this dish not only from the perspective of it being truly wonderful but also because being a native South Australian, it was great to see such a wonderful ingredient being allowed to shine the torch for South Australia so brightly in a national context.
Seafood Tempura: local Tiger prawns, nori wrapped hervey bay scallop, gold band snapper, cuttlefish, kingfish and freshly shucked oyster served with maccha salt and tentsuyu sauce
Tempura has always been an interesting one for me. Traditionally, good Japanese tempura is highly venerated but my experiences have generally only every given me ‘battered seafood’. The tempura here however shows me why it is so popular! The batter in this case was so light and almost fluffy with no overbearing amounts of oiliness that it truly elevated the eating experience of the seafood I’m sure in the way that tempura dishes have been designed to do so. The maccha salt is an interesting one which is normal salt mixed with powdered green tea. It certainly added an extra element to the dish. One bugbear with the tentsuya dipping sauce was that like most tempura dipping sauce, they are too cautious and too mild. This was however not in my opinion an element of the recipe or the restaurant but more reflective of my own barbaric tastes. I really just wanted to dip it into full strength kikkoman soya.
Kaisen Men: grilled petuna ocean trout cured with kyoto style white miso, sato imo potatoes, yuzu citrus pickled daikon
This was one of the larger dishes on the menu and offered a dish more akin with people accompanied to Western style dishes in that it was a large piece of fish served with a potato (i.e. protein and starch). By this stage, the palate fatigue was starting to set in so in a way, it was nice to get something a little less complicated. The salmon cured with miso was cooked perfectly and the salty sweet miso cure and zingy and slightly tart yuzu citrus pickled daikon were a great way to counter the oiliness of the salmon. This made the protein component well rounded and in some ways perfect. The potato seemed somewhat odd but upon further research discovered that this is actually a type of Japanese potato which roughly translates as ‘country potato’ or ‘wild potato’ and is traditionally boiled in water with a little soya and mirin which is how it was served here. It was actually quite nice and although small, seemed to be rather filling. Overall it was a great dish.
Serious Chocolate Plate: a selection of four house made chocolate morsels
By this stage, we were getting rather full, so we decided to share a place between us. The chocolate plate was indeed serious and rather splendid. We received an ice cream, a mousse, a brownie and a kind of ‘choc-brandy-style-snap’ with a fruit gel. To be honest, they were all great and it was nice to have a little bit of dessert but the highlight here today were the non-desserts.
Overall, Wasabi is a great offer. The scenery is serene ‘how’s the serenity?…’ and the outfitting of the establishment was A1 but the food was superb from all angles. Not only were the flavour combinations and technique displayed by the kitchen and waiting staff good but the quality of ingredients and intelligent and well considered use of them not only tastful but refreshing.
Another thing to note for fellow South Aussies was the presence of Mayura Station Wagyu on the menu from one of my suppliers, mates and South Aussie food legend Scott de Bruin. Sadly, they were out of stock on this occasion but had they been, I’m sure that like everything else on the menu, they would have done total justice to his wonderful product!
My stay is Noosa was a highlight for the year so far and Wasabi was certainly one of the reasons for it. However, you get what you pay for with starters-sashimi (3 per serve 8$-$21/mains $19-$46/sides $7-$9.50/desserts $12.50-$15
2 Quamby Place
Ph: (07) 554 92443