If you Google or Bing the word "Wafu" it translates to "Japanese-style," but when I asked Elaine Chen, the proprietor of the new WAFU Asian Bistro in Southport, her definition was "peace and harmony." The new Wafu, located at 3671 Post Road (formerly Friendly's) seems to be a little bit of both. Chen, from the FUJIAN PROVINCE of China, and her husband (the restaurant's lead sushi chef), have created an ASIAN establishment where Japanese, Chinese and Thai food mesh perfectly in a serene and sophisticated environment. Although it's difficult to tell from the exterior, the decor once inside is New York chic (and perhaps a tiny bit over the top with Swarovski Chandeliers and neon-blue lighting). Menus are presented on ipads and you sit comfortably at your glossy tables on your white-leathered booth. Sure, it's a bit shi shi, but shi shi works at WAFU. The food is good for a "multi-culture" menu, the decor is funky and, though it looks fancy, it turns out to be a very kid-friendly establishment.
To start, we ordered the BEEF NEGIMAKI. This NEGIMAKI was, as tradition would have it, broiled strips of beef marinated in teriyaki sauce and wrapped around scallion strips. The beef was tender and well seasoned and the crunch of the cool scallion created the perfect contrast. We also tried the GYOZA, of the crispy variety, filled with classic ground pork and vegetables. The other appetizer sampled was SHUMAI which were, although not spectacular, would certainly be a tasty choice for kids and those not ready to be adventuresome.
There were some intriguing main menu items that we simply couldn't miss. One was the ASIAN PIZZA. Here, a homemade savory pancake, or okonomi, meaning "what you want," was topped with blue-fin tuna, salmon, yellow tail, avocado, mango, and jalapeno. Basically, this was a large sushi roll where the ingredients were spread out in pie form. And although it wasn't foldable, this was almost MOO-SHOO SUSHI! With the pancake as the base, the fish took on a a more prominent role yet it was so fresh, the flavors remained delicate. Another dish we had to sample was the ANGEL TEARS ROLL. Here, tuna and spicy king crab were sprinkled with jalapeno flakes and topped with ANGEL TEARS - real gold flake pearls. A tangy, sweet, ginger-wasabi sauce was drizzled on top for added color and affect yet this roll was surprisingly bland.
Some excellent Thai favorites were also for the sampling so sample we did. The THAI COCONUT CURRY CHICKEN was tasty. Tender strips of moist chicken were tossed with fresh sugar snaps, onion and green and red peppers and all were bathed in a light coconut/curry broth. Though I am used to a thicker, creamier sauce, the thinness of WAFU's broth allowed the chicken's own delicate taste to rise above the curry. Again, the flavors here were not over-powering, making this another perfect dish for kids and those who might be Asian-Cuisine wary.
The PAD THAI was also interesting as, although all the most traditional ingredients were present, the base RICE NOODLES were replaced with SOBA NOODLES. These Japanese noodles made from BUCKWHEAT have a distinct, slightly sweet flavor and this added an unusual twist to the PAD THAI norm.
The chefs at WAFU do a great job exploring a wide variety of ASIAN cuisines, trying to marry favorites from one region with flavors from another. They succeed. This is the perfect place to introduce ASIAN food to your kids. Flavors are mild and slightly sweet and the atmosphere is definitely "cool."
There is a SUSHI BAR and also Hibachi, yet not prepared at the table. Kids will love it. But so will adults on date night. The seating here has been carefully thought out so that, although the restaurant seats 90, there is definitely an intimate feel. WAFU - "peace and harmony, Japanese style" - it works.
WAFU Asian Bistro - 3671 Post Road in Southport (formerly the Friendly's location!)