Those of you dancing your way through the summer heat with cool drinks and sushi should be sure to waltz over the Dancing Wasabi’s new location in Hyde Park.
Owner Charlie Choi recently sold his Mount Lookout location, which will soon reopen as Cloud Nine. I hadn’t been to the Mount Lookout location in years, but my memory of it is dark and a smidge toward upscale. The new location has a more casual feel. If restaurants were outfits, Mount Lookout might be a strapless cocktail dress with heels, while Hyde Park is a cotton print with sandals.
The space is just off Hyde Park Square in what used to be Beluga and has something for everyone. There’s an outside patio to enjoy when this heat spell breaks. As you enter the restaurant the curves of the bar on your left and sushi bar on your right draw you along to a large back room with a lot of feng shui appeal. While there was no wind and water (which is the literal translation of feng shui), the room had a serene feeling. It’s open and airy, but the sound seemed subdued and it almost felt like things were moving in slow motion when I peeked in.
My party sat in a small area between the front window and the sushi bar. As we settled in to our chairs, I almost fell out of mine when a leg got stuck in the air conditioning vent. (Safety note: avoid that chair in the corner by the front window!) By the time the giggles subsided, our server had approached with our menus and some extensive menu instructions. The main menu has several pages of drink selections, a traditional sushi menu and a single-page menu with the Sushi Chef Selections. Things got a little complicated when the server explained that we needed to write everything we wanted on the sushi menu: There was a spot on the bottom for that.
The menu is similar to the old Mount Lookout location, but in my follow-up call GM David Royal told me that they would be changing the menu at the new location once or twice a year to keep things fresh. Right now there are a smattering of appetizers, tempura and teriyaki dishes, seafood and sushi.
I’m not a big sushi eater, but I do love to munch over the names of special rolls. A quick read of the special offerings at Dancing Wasabi makes one thing clear: These chefs (we counted four the night we dined) like spice. Some of the special rolls offered were the Bengal’s Roll ($11) with spicy crab, avocado and fried spicy tuna with seaweed powder; the Fire Scallop Roll ($15.50) with spicy crab, cucumber and torched scallops; and the Red Fire Roll ($13.50) with spicy tuna and cucumber.
Luckily, I brought a Cajun as a dining partner. Our Cajun contestant started with the Kimchi soup ($6) with spicy cabbage, beef and tofu. On her first bite she made one of those food noises. You know, the ones we all make when a guttural sort of sound is the only way to communicate how much we like something. The broth was spicy enough that she even ended up liking the tofu (not something she ever willingly eats).
We all also split an order of Shrimp Shumai ($5). The steamed shrimp dumplings were the opposite side of the flavor scale from the soup: delicate in both taste and texture. They were finished off pretty quickly and it was on to entrées.
For dinner I had the Dol Sot BibimBap ($17.95), beef, vegetables and rice served in a hot stone pot and topped with a fried egg. My Cajun friend continued her spice theme with an array of sushi choices that included the Crazy Spicy California Roll ($10) and the Hot Mama Roll ($9.50); a combo of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, red snapper, garlic and scallions topped with hot sauce, hot pepper and chili oil. She also had the Philly Roll Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese ($6.50), and we shared an order of the Chicken Teriyaki with rice ($15.95).
Even though the food and the atmosphere is a semi-upscale dining experience, whenever you order sushi and other entrées at restaurants doing both there’s a chaotic timing to the service that becomes festive — eating dinner at home, reaching across the table and talking with your mouth full kind of festive.
As we dined and shared our food and a bottle of Alan Scott Sauvignon Blanc ($27), we found all the dishes to be keepers, my Cajun friend declaring that she would recommend Dancing Wasbai to anyone looking for a sushi experience. The Hot Mama roll was declared to be “good and fishy” and got a thumbs up on the spice level.
Meanwhile, I let one of the servers mix my BibimBap, happily noting she added just the right amount of hot sauce as she filled us in on the new location. The chicken teriyaki, the most delicate of the dishes, was tender and lightly glazed with the sauce, making it just slightly sweet and slightly salty.
To round out the evening we ordered a chocolate and a mango Mochi Ice Cream ($5.95). This traditional Japanese dessert is ice cream wrapped inside a thin layer of rice made from pounded sticky rice. Ours was served with a heaping helping of whipped cream and topped with a blueberry.
Wine, sushi and ice cream? What better recipe for a girl’s night out!
Go: 3530 Edwards Road, Hyde Park
Hours: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5 p.m.-4 a.m. Friday-Saturday
Entrée Prices: $13-$35
Sushi Prices: $4-$16.50 (Actual price is half of what is listed on menu and in this review)
Red Meat Alternatives: Chicken, seafood and vegetarian options
Accessibility: Steps at entrance