Backstory: fresh wasabi production is a fairly secretive business in Japan, I have heard stories about cartels, tec.; it retails for about $60 a pound; one American farmer finally figured out how to grow it and is growing it Northern California, again in a very secretive fashion; most powedered wasabi is not made from the root at all but from plain old horseradish.
I finally tried it for the first time at Hirozen and I was in love. Pale, pale green. $8 a serving. Worth it for a group.
More subtle than the green paste, softer on the palette with a nice buzz, not burn, in the back of the mouth. They serve the root with a small wooden grater, with a portion already grated. It was so far superior to anything I have tried before and such a better fit with the delicate fish.
Anyone know of other places that have it?
Thanks Judi. I've been looking for a place other than Mori (which has gotten mixed reviews here) that has fresh wasabi. The powdered stuff just doesn't compare, and I wish more places would serve it.
Russkar also mentioned a place downtown where you can buy fresh wasabi root shipped over from Japan by jet, but I don't think I want to test the "byow" policy at my favorite sushi joints - the chef is holding a very sharp knife, after all. And I don't think I could eat that much wasabi before it goes past its prime.
It retails at the Mitsuwa chain in Southern California for $99 a pound. You can buy it in bulk at lower cost directly from the grower listed below.
If you are buying at the store, you only need one tuber, which won't set you back very far. When you grate it (and Sur La Table for reasons I cannot fathom carries the wooden grater made with shark skin, you'll find it next to the bamboo steamers)it releases a perfume into the air. Aaaah!
You can buy some very nice sashimi at Mitsuwa and have yourself quite a time, if your sushi skills are not yet at peak.
Enjoy yourselves out there,
Oh good, an opportunity to ask a question I've been wondering about. I've often heard that the "wasabi" served in US restaurants is rarely the real thing. In fact I've attached a Wall Street Journal article about that and other "food fakes". My question is what the fake wasabi *is*. The article says it's horseradish. But I've also heard that, even worse than that, it's basically cornstarch with pepper and food coloring. I would be interested to hear the truth from any restaurant insiders.
I believe the article is correct: "horseradish, mustard and bright green food coloring that costs a few dollars a pound. Made from a gnarled root that is tough to cultivate, true wasabi costs about $70 a pound. The taste is subtler, too."
If you look at the ingredients list on the side of the small wasabi can, it typically says "Japanese horseradish and coloring".
To which I would add "and horse feathers too."