Wann Japanese Izakaya
2020 2nd Avenue
Seattle WA 98121
Wanting it All at Wann
By: Grant Y
We were finishing dinner at Wann when our server, a young twenty-something with ruffled brown hair, smiled and asked what we thought of our meals there. Despite being one of Belltown's relatively new Japanese restaurants, Wann delivers one of the most unique Japanese culinary experiences in all of Seattle.
"Fantastic!" I replied. It's not often that a food reviewer spills the beans so easily, but I felt compelled to let our young server know that this was a meal I truly appreciated.
Peering through thick framed glasses, our server seemed to beam at our response with a muster of pride. Casting a quick look, he leaned in and sheepishly confided that he was glad we enjoyed the meal, but that business wasn't doing too well. In short, if we wanted to dine again at Wann, we had better come back sooner than later.
That was nearly one year ago.
Fast forward to the present time. I'm happy to say that both Wann and Japanese izakaya are still alive and well in Seattle. Izakaya is a tapas style of drinking and dining, made popular in modern Japan, where customers leisurely order plates and drinks over the course of a meal.
Wann is dark and sexy, with an interior where postmodernism melds with Shinto minimalism. After your eyes adjust to the dark, you'll see the main floor, where raised booths with white futon seats hover over water rock Zen gardens. The styling is sharp and clean, with straight lines formed by use of dark woods. A bar area that seats a dozen comfortably is lit by an ambient shoji screen that spans over the row of spirits.
As a Seattle Japanese restaurant, Wann is a risk taker. Gone are the bento boxes, teriyaki, katsu and California rolls. Instead, you'll find such wondrous dishes like the kurobuta corndog made with fatty Berkshire sausage, Yukon river king salmon with burned butter soy sauce, kobe beef tongue steak and brie cheese tempura with raspberry soy.
Wann also serves kamameshi, a traditional and long cooking dish that steams rice and other ingredients in an iron pot at the table. Just glancing over the menu is enough to make a foodie's rumble in anticipation. Whittling down Wann's list of dishes for review was no easy task.
The Mecha Godzilla Roll ($9.95) is a formidable roll that includes seared kobe beef, asparagus, cream cheese, cilantro, habanero teriyaki sauce, spicy aioli and wasabi mayo. It works brilliantly as a paradoxical combination: a smooth crunch, a sweet spice and a meaty cream. Though touted as "extremely spicy," I felt it had about as much heat as a Siberian snow cone in the winter (to be fair, the Japanese rarely use hot spices in their food).
In the mood for duck, we ordered the playfully named Duck'n Roll ($9.75) as well as the Peppered Duck Breast ($7.75). The duck roll is another unique and tasty creation that combines rich, marinated duck breast over a crisp cucumber and yamaimo (Japanese yam) roll, drizzled with raspberry soy sauce and mayo. The duck breast we had mixed reviews for, due to issues with the toughness of the meat and overly strong pepper flavor.
Thinly sliced and lightly seared on the edges, the Kobe Beef Tataki ($8.25) has a tender texture and savory beef flavor. A side of ponzu sauce accompanies the dish, which is a tart soy flavor that adds a sharp and delectable twist to the beef.
New to my tasting experience was the Yakisoba Omelet ($7.25), which is described as a yakisoba and takoyaki (small, fried octopus ball) filled omelete with spicy mayo okonomi (sweet fruit and vegetable base) sauce, aonori seaweed and bonito (smoked fish) flakes.
Thought the texture was a chaotic mix of noodle strands, egg and sweet okonomi sauce, I absolutely loved it. The hints of Asian seafood flavors blended with Western style delivered a harmonious balance that worked wonderfully.
Note: Connoisseurs of Chinese cuisine may delight at similarities between this omelet and the Chinese version of a sweet oyster pancake (as seen at Facing East).
Lastly, a Tuna and Tofu Tartare ($7.95) made with spicy tuna and chopped tofu and topped with peanuts, cabbage shreds and an aioli sauce was a perfectly textured treat spread across crisp garlic bread.
Unfortunately, while Wann manages to impress us with cooking, the service leaves something to be desired. Dishes seem to come out intermittently at random intervals and our water was left inexplicably unfilled even after numerous visits from our server.
Although Wann had a light crowd that night, it was apparent that Wann was either understaffed or was in need of additional oversight by management to fix these basic issues.
Though the service was subpar, it's hard to hold a grudge against Wann due to the excellent food, swank atmosphere and great dollar value. The late hours and izakaya style dining makes the restaurant flexible for a late night pit stop, a romantic dinner, pre-funking or just a foodie's night out. Wann is definitely a winner.
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