Homegrown sushi chef, Damien Tan King Meng, first runner-up in the 2015 World Sushi Challenge, has been making waves since returning to Penang from a 6-year stint at Singapore’s Hide Yamamoto in Marina Bay Sands.
Wako Sushi Omakase was like a little piece of Old Tokyo - bobbing paper lanterns, geisha-paintings-on-the-wall & all - teleported through space and landed right smack on a rundown alleyway in one of George Town’s oldest neighborhoods.
Chef Damien is the consummate sushi chef, and the best seats in the house are one of only six at the sushi bar counter facing the maestro himself. The pandemic lockdown meant no visitors from outside Penang can come into the state, and that, coupled with a subdued dining out culture these days, meant that we only needed to make our booking one week ahead for those precious seats.
So that’s where we found ourselves two nights ago - front-row seats as we watched him grate a piece of fresh wasabi root on a piece of shark-skin mounted on a board, as he prepared for the evening service. We were 10 minutes early, but we didn’t mind waiting as we watched him blend the sauces to be brushed atop the nigiri sushi later on: a blend of mirin, soy sauce and red wine.
We opted for the normal omakase set (MYR498/US$120) over the premium one (MYR618/US$150) as this was our first time at Wako, and we weren’t really sure at all what to expect.
Our meal this evening consisted of:
Seasonal appetiser platter
Marinated hotaru ika (firefly squid)
Chopped broccoli leaves & stems topped with sakura ebi
Yamamomo (bayberry) from Okinawa, with stewed seaweed
Sashimi platter (clockwise from top-left): ika (squid), bluefin tuna, swordfish, kampachi (longfin yellowtail) and snapper
One garnish that I particularly liked were the tiny sea grapes
Marinated anago (baby sea-eels)
Seared bonito (skipjack tuna)
WAKO truffle oil chawanmushi, topped with uni (sea-urchin)
The highlight of our meal: 6 types of Edomae nigirisushi:
Hotate (scallop) topped with caviar
Akamutsu (rosy seabass)
Otoro (tuna belly)
Shiro-ebi (baby shrimps)
Negitoro (chopped tuna) topped with uni (sea-urchin) and ikura (salmon roe)
Hirame (flounder’s fin)
Seafood miso soup
Dessert: Coconut-lime sorbet with almond tuille
Exquisite meal, with faultless service by the wait-staff. Chef Damien was amazingly skilled and his carefully-choreographed sushi-making skills (he had 20 years of experience) was breathtaking. Also, the fact that he was a local Penangite meant that I could banter with him, and also find out the small nuances on why certain things were done or served in a certain way, something I’d never been able to do in my 3 visits to Tokyo’s famed Sukiyabashi Jiro in the past 20 years!
Wako Sushi Omakase
16, Gat Lebuh Acheh, 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604-262 6363
Opening hours: 2pm to 10pm daily