Wasabi Japanese Restaurant
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday and closed Monday
Where: 3446 Winder Highway, Suite H, Flowery Branch
More info: www.wasabiflowerybranch.com or 770-503-7338
Wasabi Japanese Restaurant owners Sam and Jasmine Yong pride themselves in bringing creative Asian cuisine and new types of sushi to Flowery Branch.
However, in the seven years the restaurant has been in business in the Publix shopping center at the corner of Atlanta and Winder highways, one menu item keeps patrons coming back time and time again — the Flowery Branch roll.
“We just tried to make a new roll and see how customers would react,” Sam Yong said. “With the Flowery Branch roll, they just kept coming back and ordering the same thing.”
The roll incorporates traditional elements of a California roll, including avocado, cucumber and crab, with a traditional Southern element — being deep-fried.
“The customers like something fried, so we deep-fry the whole roll,” Yong said. “It’s based on the California roll, but we add a crab salad on top with a bit of spicy mayo and some orange fish egg — masago.”
The sweetness of the crab salad, spiciness of the mayonnaise and saltiness of the vegetables is what makes the roll so popular with the local customers.
“Some places have a similar roll to the Flowery Branch roll,” Yong said. “But some are too spicy, others are too sour. Ours is kind of spicy and sweet. It’s our most popular fried roll.”
The Flowery Branch roll is also one of the most popular cooked rolls on the menu, along with the Jacky roll, which features shrimp tempura, and the Fancy roll, which has smoked eel and salmon on top. Other items on the menu range from traditional sesame chicken to sushi and sashimi.
No matter the roll, however, Yong and sushi chef Danny Chen believe good sushi starts from the beginning with the basic ingredients, such as rice and the seaweed wraps.
“The rice takes an hour and a half to get ready,” Chen said, through translation from Yong. “We mix it with vinegar until the temperature cools halfway. It gives it the flavor and the texture along with some sugar.”
The pair also use high-quality seaweed wraps that have to be kept at a specific temperature and used at a certain time to ensure they won’t fall apart.
Even the knife Chen uses to craft his rolls is special and costs more than $3,000.
The other elements on the sushi plate are not decoration. They enhance the sushi experience and are part of the culture.
“Ginger cleans up the mouth,” Chen said. “It cleans the palate between bites. Wasabi kills germs and helps clean the mouth to enhance the flavor.”
Because of all of the elements needed to make quality sushi, including the Flowery Branch roll, Yong has one piece of advice for those looking to make rolls at home.
“I wouldn’t even try it,” he said with a laugh. “It takes practice and skill, and that knife is key to cutting the rolls without everything falling apart.”