Wakasan Now Open For Lunch; Serving Ramen and More in Westwood
If you like the chef’s choice style of Japanese omakase (me!), you’re a mildly adventurous eater (also me!) and you’re a cheap bastard (guilty again!) chances are you’ve heard of Wakasan in Westwood. Nobody would call it the absolute best omakase in a city that houses Nozawa, Urasawa, and Kiyokawa but it is without a doubt the best value. For $35 you are treated to a tasty mix of raw and cooked izakaya style small plates, exquisitely presented in a laid back setting that could just as easily be serving spicy tuna rolls and chicken teriyaki. Sure there are more expensive options available ($55, $75, $95) but those must be ordered a day in advance. In other words, the chef isn’t looking to up-sell and sticker shock is not a concern. This place is meant to be a bargain, and it really is.
So you can imagine how excited I was when my buddy Sam told me that they recently started serving lunch, and it turns out, unsurprisingly, to be just as much of a steal as their dinner. Wakasan’s take on ramen and the bento box… after the jump.
A true izakaya is not open for lunch, but it seems that more and more of these traditional places are starting to reconsider the policy (sign of the economic times perhaps?) Wakasan is now open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday, 11:30am to 2pm. Each day they’ll offer 4 different options, and just like the dinner offerings many will change daily depending on what’s available. Ramen ($8) is the one thing they will have every single day, but yesterday there was also a “Tuna Bowl Set” for $9, broiled mackerel set for $12, and a pork cutlet with egg for $12.
The ramen was on par with pretty much everything else at Wakasan. Not the absolute best tonkotsu you’re ever going to have, but a really solid westside option. The slices of pork were slightly overcooked, but the broth had a very strong meaty flavor without being overly oily (a good or a bad thing depending on what kind of ramen you like.) The noodles were excellent, and they’ll give you a chili and scallion mixture to add a bit more bite to the whole thing. All in all a great bowl of soup, and great news for people who work in the previously ramen-less Westwood.
As much as I wanted to order the $12 katsu set, the cheap bastard in me took over and I decided to try the $9 tuna bowl instead. And it was here that you get to see Wakasan do what it does best.
Beautiful in its simple presentation, you get a surprisingly hefty portion of tuna scraps that have been lightly marinated, alongside a bowl of perfectly cooked rice, and a few assorted side dishes, like ground up tofu (seriously delicious!), bean sprouts, pickled radish, and a miso soup. Paying $9 for a bento like this might not be highway robbery, but it is at the very least petit larceny.
Right now lunch business is a bit slow, mainly because they’ve only been doing it for a few weeks and word hasn’t gotten out yet. But once it does, it is likely that Wakasan will be just as packed for lunch as it is for dinner (and maybe even more so.) Once that happens it will be interesting to see if the tiny kitchen will be able to keep up with demand, and if the prices will stay so low. In other words, go now while you still can. For dinner Wakasan is an absolute treat. A completely affordable, full of surprises, Japanese to its core eating experience. It should surprise nobody that their new lunch service is much of the same.
THE + (What people who like this place would say)
- I LOVE Wakasan for dinner. So excited that they’re open for lunch now
- There is no good ramen in Westwood. This is amazing news.
- The place is so serene, and the couple who run it are so friendly
- Everything they make is so beautifully presented
- I love that a lot of the menu will change every day
THE – (What people who don’t like this place would say)
- The tuna set was good, but I felt like they give you the good stuff at night and I was eating the scraps
- I like my ramen a bit more greasy. I’ll just keep making the drive to Santouka.
- I’m not big on surprises. What if they don’t have something I like the day I go? No thanks.
- It’s fine now, but if it gets super busy (and once words gets out it will be super busy) I could see it taking a long time.
- This place doesn’t have california rolls? Screw that.
Wakasan, 1929 Westwood Blvd, 310-446-5241