I was invited to try an Asian fusion restaurant the other night on Fifth Street and Santa Monica Boulevard in the old Rix/Union space named Wokcano. There are six Wokcano locations throughout L.A., serving well-priced Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai dishes and great cocktails.
The Santa Monica location has a fantastic outdoor courtyard, which is upstairs, so make sure you check it out as it is quite the scene. All manner of young, attractive people go there to enjoy a drink and to meet and who knows what else, but there was definitely a trendy vibe to it.
My husband and I arrived at 7 p.m. and were seated promptly by a pleasant host. The staff is all young and attractive — a reflection of the clientele. Our wait person was very nice, but not the most knowledgeable about the menu and the various items. When I asked her about a roll that I wanted to know more about, she didn’t seem to have the answer. Oh well, maybe she was new.
Anyway, we enjoyed a couple of very delicious appetizers; a plate of paper thin Hamachi with a ponzu sauce and a seared albacore and seaweed salad with the refreshing addition of sliced cucumbers in a tasty Asian dressing. Both were perfect and the salad was a big hit with both of us. I could have eaten that alone and been very happy.
We indulged in an order of mixed sushi which was fresh and tasty and tried a couple of their special rolls; a golden triangle and a dragon roll. The golden triangle was our favorite; a perfect combination of tuna, caviar, cucumber and mint. The flavors blended together seamlessly, especially that touch of mint.
The waitress brought over an offering from the chef that is “very popular” although a bit odd; a martini glass filled with spicy tuna with cubes of avocado in it, which was the good part — but then it is served with Doritos spicy tortilla chips, which are used to dip into the tuna. Now this was very unusual and trendy at the same time. I know they are appealing to a young, hip crowd but bright orange Doritos as part of an entrée? That was a bit over the top for both of us and quite unexpected after all the elegant and refined flavors preceding it. Not something I would order again or would recommend.
The menu was a fusion of cuisines as I mentioned above and that was a bit off-putting for me. I like a restaurant that does one cuisine the best they can, but when there are too many choices from other countries, I get lost and can’t find anything to relate to. This is obviously a personal observation and I am sure there are many people who love to have Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Thai dishes all offered on one menu. That said, this was my only comment on the negative side. We stuck with one cuisine; Japanese therefore I comment only on this.
The dishes we ordered were well done and delicious (except the Dorito experience) and I recommend Wokcano for a fun night out, especially if you are 20 to 30 and are going for the cocktail scene.
If you enjoy Japanese cuisine, you might want to try your hand at one of my favorite appetizers that is a big hit with my friends. Here you go!
Amanda Cushman is a culinary educator who has cooked professionally for 25 years. She teaches privately for groups of two to 20 students. She has developed hundreds of recipes for cookbooks as well as food magazines and Web sites. She can be reached email@example.com.
Sesame Tuna on Wonton Crisps with Wasabi Crème Fraiche
This recipe makes 30 pieces
1 piece ahi grade tuna, 3/4 pound, cut into log shapes about four inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide
1/4 cup dark sesame oil
3 tbs. soy sauce
1 cup sesame seeds, black and white, toasted in a dry skillet until golden
1/4 package square wonton skins
Vegetable or peanut oil for frying
Wasabi crème fraiche
1/2 cup crème fraiche, sour cream or mayonnaise
2 tsp. wasabi powder
Salt, to taste
1/2 ripe papaya, peeled, seeded, cut into thin 1/4 inch pieces
Chives, snipped, garnish
1. Place the tuna in a bowl and coat with the sesame oil and soy sauce. Marinate about 20 minutes. Place the seeds on a baking sheet and dip the tuna in them, turn to coat.
2. Heat a sauté pan over high heat. Lightly brush with vegetable oil. Sauté the tuna for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a cutting board and slice against the grain, then cut into small cubes.
3. Cut the wontons into triangles. Heat enough oil to come up the side of the pan by 2 inches. When it is hot but not smoking fry the wontons a few at a time until lightly golden for about 30 seconds. Drain on paper towels.
4. Combine the crème fraiche, wasabi and salt to taste in a small bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust for more wasabi or salt.
5. Top the wonton triangles with a cube of tuna and spoon a dollop of the wasabi crème on each piece of tuna. Garnish with the papaya and chives.