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Published: Thursday, 4/12/2007

Restaurant review: Bistro Wasabi****

In keeping with the lean look and feel of Bistro Wasabi, let me describe the Perrysburg restaurant in a few choice words: Austere. Sleek. Stylish. Metro-sexy. Wonderful.

That last adjective describes not only the dcor but the food - classic Far East and Western dishes served either separately or joined in a fusion of cultures and tastes that accent every plate. Its dual identity is best evidenced by the eating utensils: chopsticks and silverware.

The dcor of the Levis Commons eatery is both tactile and visual: a unique melding of spare, bone-white walls against large bay windows, black marble, and translucent screens; black and white tables and chairs lit by pointillist track lighting, and an ambiance soothed by recorded classical music and smooth jazz.

Diners can indulge themselves at a cozy sushi bar where expert Korean chefs guide novices and epicures alike through a buffet of maki, nigiri, sashimi, spicy salmon, rare tuna, quail eggs, and flying fish roe. All of it was better and more inviting than I, the novice personified, could have imagined. That would include the surprisingly palate-friendly morsels of octopus, freshwater eel, seaweed, and other delicacies set before me.

Some patrons, however, may prefer more familiar dishes such as crab Rangoon, ahi tuna, teriyaki chicken, shrimp tempura, Alaskan king crab salad, lobster tails, and thick steaks.

Drinks, too, reflect the multicultural nature of Bistro Wasabi. A rainbow of flavored, fruity martinis occupies a sizable portion of the spirits menu, along with a selection of sake, available hot or cold, by the bottle or glass.

Two Bistro Wasabi restaurants operate out of the Chicago area, but Michael Song, proprietor of the Levis Commons eatery, says he owns the local eatery independently, while also acknowledging menu similarities and a close friendship with the owners of the Windy City namesakes.

A couple of well-traveled sushi lovers and I gorged ourselves at the Levis Commons eatery one evening. They found the various offerings to be pricier than elsewhere, but the food, invariably served with vinegared rice, certainly was delicious.

Washed down with a bottle of cold Momokawa Pearl sake ($10), the sushi often tasted better than cooked fish, especially the rare salmon, yellowtail tuna, striped bass, and a quail egg crowned with beads of salmon roe.Smears of wasabi, a torrid green Japanese horseradish, heated up the sushi considerably. Prices per morsel ranged from 75 cents to $4.

Maki - fish or vegetables often mixed with, say, avocado or cream cheese and wrapped in a nori (seaweed) roll - were equally tasty, priced in the $6 to $16 bracket. Among the appetizers, I fell for an order of crab cakes ($10); rare seared tuna ($13) bursting with flavor, and two asparagus beef rolls ($10) that were a meal unto themselves.

Wandering elsewhere on the description-free menu, we tried bland miso (tofu) soup; petit teriyaki chicken ($10) pounded dry but rescued by the sauce; a house salad ($5) of field greens and tomatoes in ginger dressing, and a 15-ounce New York steak ($25), charred and done to a juicy turn. Almost as impressive was the artful presentation - a bundle of long-stemmed asparagus propped vertically against a cake of mashed potatoes.

One last word about that freshwater eel: It was actually pretty good, tasting somewhat sweet and made tastier with a slice of avocado. Best of all, I didn't get electrocuted.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com.



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