When I heard of the new Wow Yanagi in Pismo Beach, I wasn’t that interested in checking it out. After all, could a fifth restaurant in the countywide Yanagi chain be much different than its counterparts?
The other locations are all popular and deservingly so with their eclectic and adventurous sushi dishes served in lively settings.
But after dining at Wow Yanagi, I found it the most enticing Yanagi of them all.
Wow Yanagi is located in a rather dead strip mall, far different than its other Pismo Beach location off Highway 101, which offers ocean views, teppan grills and a party atmosphere.
The first time I went looking for this new place, I drove around the parking lot for several minutes scanning until I spotted its small neon sign.
Inside, Wow Yanagi has a tranquil, soothing ambience created by an interior made contemporary with smooth walls, deep hues and dark wood tables.
The service is quick, attentive and friendly. The staff was eager to chat with my guests and me upon both our arrival and departure. As we perused the menu, they recommended dishes they thought we would enjoy.
We visited for lunch so the sushi lunch combination ($15.90) was a logical suggestion. Although a bit pricey for a lunch entree, it was a ample feast that included a choice of specialty roll, five pieces of sushi, steaming miso soup and a green salad with ginger dressing.
Keep in mind, too, that a Yanagi specialty roll is bigger than a sushi roll at many other Japanese restaurants, nearly a full meal by itself.
I ordered the Albacore Roll, a fat and satisfying dish splashed with a spicy sauce and sporting chunks of albacore both inside and spread over the top.
The Dragon Roll, another popular specialty roll, begins as a California roll but then it’s stuffed with crab and cooked eel and topped with spicy tuna, eel sauce and a spicy red sauce so hot that we couldn’t grab the ice water fast enough. Even so, it was fresh-tasting, and I appreciated the spice — although this roll may have too much kick for tender palates.
Turning my attention to the sushi, I found them all to be made from high quality slices of fresh fish including salmon, yellowtail and albacore. I nearly skipped over the shrimp sushi until my server told me what I’d be missing. She was right—the shrimp sushi was sweet, succulent and delicious.
The house salad was simple, just leafy greens, chopped tomato and a tangy ginger dressing but was a refreshing contrast to my steaming bowl of miso soup.
There are still plenty of non-sushi eaters around, and for these diners, Wow Yanagi serves plenty of teriyaki and noodle options. The spicy sesame chicken and teriyaki plate ($9) was an ample serving of chicken and beef, served with miso soup, salad and a bowl of steamed rice. Both meats were packed with flavor but the beef was a bit tough. It was drenched in a sweet and syrupy teriyaki glaze.
The tempura vegetables were served exactly as tempura should be with each piece of broccoli, squash, carrot and onion encapsulated in a light and flaky crust.
Desserts include green tea ice cream and deep-fried ice cream. The beer and wine list is simple but adequate. Japanese beers include favorites such as Kirin and Sapporo.