Right at the intersection of 107th avenue and 124th street, you'll find Washoku Bistro, a brand-spanking new Japanese restaurant/sake bar. Literally opened just a week ago, I first noticed Washoku back in October of last year, when signs were placed over the now-defunct Cash Store. With reLiSH Gourmet Burgers as their next door neighbour, and famed Duchess Bakeshop just a few doors down, maybe now's a good time more than ever to move closer to 124th street!
Stepping in, it's hard to believe that the space used to be anything but a restaurant in its past. A lot of wooden accents gives the room a warm, comforting vibe. Given the choice between a table or a booth, we chose the latter and was led into a small "private" room off to the side. We were the only ones in the restaurant for a good half hour, but it was nice to be secluded. It meant taking as much photos as I wanted without getting embarrassed by looks from servers!
With menu pictures already uploaded online by other customers, we walked in with a rough idea of the rolls and dishes that we wanted to try. (For example, their new style sashimi, featuring different cuts of fish seared with soy sauce and hot olive oil. Also noteworthy for us was their aburi salmon roll and some oven-baked monstrosity called a lava roll.) Unfortunately our dreams were shot down as they only offer a separate, more limited lunch menu in the afternoon which is mainly combo and bento box-focused. No biggie. I'm Asian so I'm always keen for a good deal and bentos offer exactly that. (☞ﾟ∀ﾟ)☞
I assume the restaurant is Korean-owned, hence the appearance of bulgogi and bibimbap on their menu. Their lunch roll combo is actually pretty sweet, since $3.00 more gets you a bowl of udon noodle soup and salad on the side.
We were given a bowl of complimentary miso soup to start. It hit the spot.
My brother and sister were with me, so we decided to split three items, one from each category on the menu. Their crispy crunch roll sounded the best out of the options available, so we opted to get just the roll ($13.90, combo is $16.90). The interior of the roll had shrimp tempura, crabmeat, cucumber, and avocado. It was then topped with spicy salmon, tempura bits, and a duo of sauces. I didn't find that there was much heat coming from the spicy salmon, but all of the ingredients tasted fresh overall. My favourite part of the roll was the tempura bits since it added some texture contrast to an otherwise soft bite. I thought it was also nice that they didn't pack on the rice to skimp on the filling like some places do.
Side note: we also asked if we could order a roll for takeout for my mom. The waitress said that they don't do takeout currently because they want to focus on their restaurant business first, but because it was a slow day, they made an exception.
From the kitchen part of the menu, my brother wanted to get the chicken teriyaki bento ($13.90). The bento actually had a lot of components, starting with (clockwise from bottom left) chicken teriyaki and sauteed vegetables, rice, edamame, tempura, green salad, seaweed salad, and a segmented orange. The chicken teriyaki was actually really good. The chicken was substantial and thick, and grilled with a light basting of teriyaki sauce. The sauteed vegetables surprised me since they were tender and flavourful. A decent variety as well, including red and green peppers, carrots, onions, broccoli, and mushrooms.
The tempura came in three (prawn, yam, and squash), and featured a nice batter that was light and crisp. The salad was your typical mixed greens with a ginger dressing and crispy flakes on top. I also really liked that they included an orange as a sweet finish to your meal.
From the sushi bar, we decided on the sashimi & roll bento ($15.90) which had 7 pieces of sashimi, 4 pieces of spicy salmon roll, 4 pieces of California roll, 3 pieces of tempura, and a salad. The sashimi selection included salmon, tuna, tilapia (I'm actually not sure but it was a white fish anyways), and surf clam. The fish was fresh, but cut a bit on the small side. The rolls were also decent, though I wish there was an opportunity to pick your rolls since California rolls aren't necessarily my first choice.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with Washoku Bistro so far and I'd like to come back to try their dinner menu. Early reviews are mixed, with quite a few complaining about wait times and slow service. I can't really comment on that since we were the only ones in the restaurant for the most part, and based on our experience, service was friendly and the wait for food pretty reasonable. Obviously they're new and still sorting out the kinks, so keep that in mind if you're ever there during their busier rushes. Also, patience, young grasshopper.