Review of Wa Cafe, Galway – Published Food & Wine Magazine, September 2017

Wa Café
13 New Dock Street


We visited Wa Café early one Sunday and found it dark, shuttered and empty – the Marie-Celeste of Asian cuisine. Having strolled down to the docks, we returned five minutes later to a bustling restaurant, noisy with sizzling pans, enquiring customers and a ringing till. How they managed this magic, we’ll never know, but we quickly stepped inside, eager to see what other spells they could cast from the kitchen.
The menu covers all the basics: sushi, nigiri, bento boxes and a handful of a la carte options. The daily blackboard appealed, and after a bit of dithering, we started with the house special: hane-tsuki gyoza (€12.50), a playful twist on the traditional dumpling, with a paper-thin layer of dough spread out like a golden wing, protecting the pot-stickers beneath. They were generously filled with ground pork and an invigorating kick of fresh ginger.
Meanwhile, my companion tucked into assorted sushi (€11.00), which proved a remarkable marriage of fresh Irish produce and skilled Japanese cooking. The nigiri in particular took us on a tour of Galway’s culinary riches: Achill Island smoked mackerel, organic Atlantic salmon, and delicate, blush-pink tuna, all sourced from Gannet Fishmongers. A favourite among the maki was the buttery soft salmon and creamy avocado, encased in sticky white rice and rolled in ink-black nori.
We tackled the teriyaki beef don together, digging our forks into a prettily patterned plate of thinly-sliced beef and garlic rice, smattered with fresh leaves, Japanese chilli and corn-coloured sesame seeds (€15). The slightly dry dish was boosted by plump, juicy shitakes, which sang with an earthy, satisfying flavour. My bottle of Asahi Super Dry (€6.80) was ideal for the rich, umami notes of our meal: full-bodied but refreshingly dry, subtly reminiscent of its rice origins. My dining partner opted for a Kirin Ichiban (€4.50), and enjoyed the more traditional, malt-based taste.
Remembering my earlier indecision, our server offered me a taste of the organic torched salmon special. This was a thoughtful gesture, demonstrating a certain pride in the kitchen’s abilities, a confidence justified by the intense contrast between the achingly fresh salmon and its charred, silvery skin, bolstered by an elegant droplet of hot sauce.
Before finishing up, I chanced a buckwheat tea (€2.50), intrigued by its promise to ‘improve circulation, diet and skin’. The scent reminded me of draining soba noodles, but I fought past my hesitancy and was rewarded with a deceptively subtle flavour, and a warming, comforting sensation.
Chef-owner Yoshimi Hayakawa started out plying her trade at Galway market, where she still showcases her skills at the weekends. She prides herself on food that is ‘locally sourced and cooked in Japanese traditional way’. It’s a simple mantra, but one which they have mastered, using the best of both cultures. Magic, indeed.

Open: Every day, see website for times
We loved the simple, pared-back surroundings, intriguing specials and authentic food
We spent €55.30 on a selection of dishes, with two beers and a tea

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