The pictures lured me in, the menu almost drove me out, but the quality of the food and service are among the reasons I will return. Wakasaya is a new restaurant in Little Tokyo that specializes in “don,” short for donburi, or rice bowls, which you can customize to include any number of seafood toppings. Restaurants that specialize in “don,” aren’t too common in Los Angeles, and Wakasaya does the niche proud with its great all-around quality.
The wall outside the restaurant is plastered with pictures of the many different combinations of don you can order. Some of which of are the customer favorites of their other locations in Japan. When you sit down, you are presented with a booklet of a menu that seems overwhelming until you realize all but the last page are combinations of toppings that are offered. The last page is dedicated to their limited number of udon and ramen dishes. To be honest, I don’t like donburi dishes, and I was about to just order the seafood ramen (which I’m sure is good), but I’ve learned over the years that if a restaurant specializes in a certain type of dish, it’s best to order that dish. Boy, am I glad I did. I must have also looked a bit confused looking at the menu because my server told me to go to the first page and just pick the toppings I wanted. I selected the maguro (bluefin tuna), the shrimp and the salmon roe (eggs). The side I chose was the miso soup, rather than the salad.
The miso soup was simple and pleasant. Instead of the more common white miso served at most restaurants, Wakasaya’s miso soup is the red miso type. The bowl I received lacked tofu pieces and contained less seaweed than other places, but that was made up by the broth. In many restaurants, the quality of the miso is diminished because it is too grainy or too salty. The miso soup at Wakasaya was smooth and not at all salty, which made the soup a refreshing change from other places.
Now, here is my confession and testimonial. If I had looked at the pictures on the wall more closely, I would not have walked in. As much as I like sushi, I do not like donburi. It’s not that I don’t like the concept; rather, I am very picky about rice. For many places, a don dish is just some toppings on a bed of steamed rice, and the rice is either overcooked or undercooked, too pasty or too dry. I usually end up just eating the toppings and leave the rice behind. Not here, not only did I finish off the bowl of rice, I pretty much slurped up the last remaining grains.
The rice wasn’t ordinary steamed rice. It had a touch of sweetness to it that reminded me of sushi rice, but less vinegary. The texture wasn’t pasty, it wasn’t mushy, it wasn’t hard – it was just right. The amount of toppings on the bowl were comparable, but just a little bit less than what I would have gotten if I ordered sushi, and of course, a lot more rice. I poured some donburi sauce on and started eating. The maguro and shrimp were comparable to any topping at a quality sushi restaurant, and the salmon roe would have done nicely as the topping in a salmon roe sushi. However, when I broke the eggs, and the oil mixed in with the rice, and ate that mixture, I was really happy – yes, it was that good. All that, and the total bill including a canned beverage and tax came out to be between $13 – 14.
The food was great, the service, fast and friendly, and the ability to customize the toppings was pleasing. If you like sushi, give it a try, I think you’ll like it very much. If you are a seafood donburi lover, Wakasaya is a must try. Needless to say, I was extremely pleased with my experience at Wakasaya. Did I turn into a fan of donburi? No. Am I a fan of Wakasaya? Most definitely, and I will return here to eat more of their their dons.