Monday, May 26, 2008

Wassup B!

Cleveland. Japanese food. Buffet.

Sounds pretty scary, huh?

Watami is the most recent addition to a host of Japanese restaurants in Cleveland. As one would expect from a buffet in the Midwest, it is no Todai by any stretch of the imagination. What can you expect for $13.99 all you can eat salad, sashimi, sushi - prepared and made-to-order, hot food, soup, udon, hibachi-to-order, and dessert in the middle of the US?

The salad bar is pretty decent, but looks like crap after people have pilfered through it. It consists of seaweed salad, crab salad, hijiki, asparagus with spicy mayonnaise (not Kewpie), squid salad, and a leafy green salad with the ubiquitous Benihana-style ginger salad dressing...watered down. This is where I spend most of my time. I can't get enough of the crab salad - soft, moist, and pliable surimi, cucumber, and tenkasu, folded in mayonnaise. I LOVE this with rice! I'm the kind of person buffet owners love to have.

The sashimi is reserved to a small section between the salad, plates, and sushi. It's laid out neatly on a small boat. I'm not into sashimi, so I have no clue how good it is. It looks nice to me, that's it.

The sushi area is a very active place. There are always 2-3 people behind the counter making sushi, anywhere between kappa maki to dragon roll to nigiri. They also make temaki to order. They're very friendly. The tip jar is nearby too. :P

I haven't ordered anything at the hibachi area. The udon is pretty good. It consists of a mushroom stock that is thankfully not salty, udon that is slightly overcooked, but not horrendous, and a dash of shichimi togarashi, which always makes me smile.

The hot food is the weakest link and an embarrassment. It's Chinese/American-style Japanese food, which is plain A-W-F-U-L. WTF. The teriyaki beef and chicken are tough and tasteless. The vegetables are often stir-fried. The shumai isn't bad, but uhhh I wonder why. Gyoza is mediocre. I think I'm suffering from some defensive mechanism at this time, because I can't remember what other hot foods they serve.

Oh, ok - I had to refresh my memory by going to their website. WTF is Shogun duck?

Yakisoba is tasteless and not a hint of Worcestershire sauce. It's just lo mein. I've yet to see shrimp tempura, but maybe all the hogs snort-snort-snorted them all after making several foot-high stack passes at the crab leg counter. The salmon is your usual Chinese buffet fare - not bad, not great, always overdone.

Why the hell would anyone eat fried rice at a Japanese buffet? OMFG. Anyway.

The staff is efficient and courteous. Only a few speak a bit of English. None of them speak any Japanese. There is some noticeable effort in food place setting, at least the food that doesn't have to be kept under a burner. They even have ramune and green tea ice cream that tastes a little abnormal.

With all that said, it's a place we've visited several times when Bug has an itch for a quick, high-dose of sushi and something else on the side. Otherwise, Shinano continues to be our restaurant of choice for all Japanese food, except they're closed at this time. Hurry up and re-open in your new digs, please!!!

- Cassaendra

Watami Japanese Seafood Buffet & Grill
7703 West Ridgewood Drive
Parma, OH 44129

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