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Wasabi, food and entertainment

If having shrimp tails thrown across the table and saltshakers flying through the air while eggs are cracked open by landing on the side of a spatula is your idea of entertainment, then Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse is the place to be.

The local restaurant has two locations at 226 Lovell Road and 118 Major Reynolds Place.

Teresa Wang, co-owner of Wasabi with her husband, Loi Hoang, said, “We think that when people come in and eat they should have fun, not only just food, but they will have fun.

“So we opened the hibachi-style table where the chef will entertain the customer. They will throw the rice bowl over them, let them catch the rice bowl, they will do the volcano, they throw the shrimp tails. They will do different stuff to entertain the customer while they are eating.”

One such form of entertainment is the volcano. The volcano refers to the chef shaping onions into a mountain and setting the mountain on fire.

“Some of the chefs, they might do something else, they might throw the fire on their hat or they might burn their finger, it’s all up to them,” Wang said.

Sometimes the chef will let customers try their tricks.

“If [customers] are all from one big party at the table, the chef will let them come out and try,” Wang said.

Hibachi-style tables include a long grill with enough seating for parties of 10.

Wang said, “A lot of people like that. Some people, even though they have two or three come in, you know, they will wait for a bigger table because when they have more people on the grill, the chef will have more stuff to cook and they have more stuff to watch the chef cook.”

Wang said the chefs at Wasabi are all experienced, so they know how to entertain the customer.

“Typically we hire people that have at least three years experience. … We don’t have any local chefs. … We got all kinds of people, we’ve got Vietnamese people, Laos, East Asia … we’ve got one American, a white boy, in the Major Reynolds location, he’s American, he’s from New Orleans, and he’s been cooking for twelve years,” she said.

Wang said she and Hoang chose hibachi-style seating because “we go and eat and then we feel kind of, sometimes lonely when it’s just two of us. It’s more fun when you have more people. You can make friends with them or you can talk to them.”

She said that while the restaurant is similar to authentic Japanese steakhouses, diners sit in chairs at both restaurants.

Wasabi keeps chopsticks on all of the tables. Unless you are a chopsticks connoisseur, Wasabi has “kiddy chopsticks” available, chopsticks separated by folded paper and held together with a rubber band, and offers lessons on how to use them.

“It’s not difficult, it just takes time to practice,” Wang said.

Wasabi also offers a sushi bar area where customers can find “peace and quiet.” Wang said customers can order “grill” food or sushi no matter which part of the restaurant they choose to sit.

“We don’t limit you to a certain place to eat a certain type of food. So if you and a friend come in, if your friend is a sushi side and you’re a hibachi, you can still order at the same time.”

Wang and Hoang said the Wasabi on Lovell Road used to be East Garden, a Chinese restaurant and buffet she and Hoang owned before opening the Wasabi on Major Reynolds Place in 2002.

Wang said they added a sushi bar to their Chinese restaurant but wanted more – they wanted to open a Japanese steakhouse. Their first Wasabi was a “big success.” Wang said they turned East Garden into their second Wasabi in 2003.


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