Southenders (myself included) have had “sushi restaurant” on our wish lists for years. So when I heard Wabi-Sabi was the latest project from Thoa Nguyen (formerly of Columbia City, now living in the Central District) who serves tasty pan-Asian dishes at Chinoise Café and Thoa’s Restaurant & Lounge, I was heartened.
Could it be that we’d not only get sushi, but good sushi?
Nguyen’s restaurants aren’t known for their strict adherence to authenticity (in other words: Steer clear, sushi snobs), but that’s OK: The woman knows how to dish up vibrant, likeable, fresh food while creating a comfortable, neighborhood gathering place.
Both talents shine at Wabi-Sabi: A clean aesthetic—blond-wood benches, modern linen light fixtures, exposed-brick walls—welcomes neighborhood families whose kids dig happily into fragrant bowls of udon ($6) and tear into California rolls ($6) while Mom and Dad chopstick their way through tasty carpaccio-style tuna, salmon and suzuki (sea bass), the latter lightly dressed in yuzu ($16) before diving into nigiri (two pieces per order; $4.50 for ama ebi, $5 for scallop, $5.50 for hamachi).
I wouldn’t leave without indulging in a spicy scallop roll ($6) and the futomaki ($5) filled with sweet squash, egg, pickled radish and yamagobo (pickled burdock root). Is this destination sushi that’s worth the drive to Columbia City? Probably not. But trust me: We locals won’t mind the immediate gratification.
Lunch Tue.-Sat. dinner daily with wheelchair access. Columbia City, 4909 Rainier Ave. S 206.721.0212 wabisabicolumbiacity.com $$ A.A.S.
Originally published in May 2010