Restaurant Review: Wa Café, 13 New Dock Street, Galway

THE actor Tom Murphy who died tragically young will long be remembered for his role in the Laurel and Hardy junkie movie Adam and Paul and for his Tony award-winning performance in Druid Theatre’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

Tom worked in Galway for a good period and coined my favourite phrase for this wonderful city — ‘The Pleasure Gulag’.

I know people that have found themselves in Galway for years despite elaborate plans to leave every second week. This city sucks you in and consumes your will but strangely not your energy — it is a little like a prison — a productive, creative and exciting version of the land of the Lotus Eaters.

And why would you want to leave anyway? There is a festival of some sort every weekend, there are Michelin-starred restaurants that deserve their stars (and more), there is the wonder that is Kai Café — a restaurant that hums and vibrates with energy such is the power of Jess Murphy and her team’s cooking — even the feckin’ salads are revelatory.

We won’t even go into Sheridans and their wine bar (although you should) and don’t go to Dough Bros either as almost every pizza you eat afterwards just won’t taste as good. There are at least three dozen fine places to dine and imbibe (coffee and beer) but I lack the space.

And now to Wa Café. The word ‘wa’ translates as ‘harmony’ but also includes complicated cultural references about living and working in harmony with your community and co-workers.

Yoshimi Hayakawa has become part of the harmony of Galway since she first set up her stall in Galway Market back in 2002. On her website she describes how she wants to make ‘the best Sushi in Ireland’ to contribute to Galway’s community and economy and ‘to make people happy and healthy with Sushi’.

The word harmony should suit Galway but this is also the City of the Tribes and I know of a couple of stupid and resolvable feuds in the food community there. Come on Galway, you are now deservedly the 2018 European Year of Gastronomy, world domination beckons, work in harmony — SORT IT OUT!

Anyway back to Wa on a warm Sunday afternoon — we stepped in for a snack but couldn’t leave. The room is small but comfortable and much of the Sushi is made in front of you by Yoshimi with more complicated dishes arriving from the kitchen at the back.

If you don’t want Sushi there is Ramen, Salmon and Avocado Don, Yakisoba Noodles, Teriyaki Beef Don and of course Miso soup, Edamame Beans and so on.

The drinks list has red and white wine (from Sheridans), Sake, homemade Lemonade and a couple of beers. Asahi Superdry was ‘grand’ — lightly fruity and refreshing and a good match for the food and for the warm day.

Fragrant light and well seasoned Sushi rice (it’s all about the rice remember) was nicely accented by supremely fresh fish (from Gannets Fishmongers), with the Nigiri particularly memorable and the Maki Roll pieces inevitably a little firmer but exuding subtle flavours and an admirable lightness of touch. Gyoza dumplings were beautifully presented and some of the best I’ve tried — silky, sweet-savoury and luscious — we gobbled them all.

In chatting to Yoshimi she mentioned she had some Blue Fin Tuna Otoro and my heart leaped. Otoro is the pink, fatty part of the belly of the fish and one of those foods you ‘must try before you die’ as the cliché goes. Almost all blue fin tuna from Irish waters is sold to Japan but Yoshimi has some frozen from last Winter. It really was extraordinary and a little like the very best Wagyu beef in terms of its delicacy and richness.

We finished with a Japanese Snickers Bar which sounds hokey but was actually extraordinary and a reason to visit on its own. Miso ice-cream dusted with cocoa was aided and abetted by ground peanut and black sesame seeds created a sweet savoury umami explosion of flavours — I can taste it as I write this and I am grinning happily.

So yes we overate and wobbled out but we did manage to leave Galway that day, other fortunate souls have not been so unlucky.

The tab  

An assorted Sushi plate, Tuna Maki Roll, extra Otoro Sushi, Pork Gyoza Dumplings, Dessert and three bottles of Asahi cost €59.70 (excluding tip) 

How To: Monday-Thursday: 12.30pm-2.30pm and 5pm-9pm; Friday-Sunday: 12pm-4pm and 5pm-9.30pm (Sushi also available at Galway Market Saturday and Sunday) 

The Verdict: Food: 8.5/10 Drink: 7/10 Service: 8.5/10 Ambience: 8.5/10 Value: 8.5/10

In a sentence: A truly harmonious and rather glorious food experience — good luck resisting the urge to eat the whole menu.



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