|Rice Balls with sesame seeds and steamed edamame beans.|
For the majority of the population of the world, it would be unthinkable to sit down to dinner without a pot of hot rice on the table. There to soak up sauces and juice, sitting at the centre of the plate, making it a meal. We Irish, of course, take similar comfort in potatoes, refusing to have a main meal without them. Boiled, roasted, mashed with butter, even pizza or pasta come with a side of potatoes in some households.
The crimes committed by everyones favorite Uncle, ‘Ben’, has put a generation of Irish off eating this glorious grain. They imprisoned it in a perforated bag jail cell and stripped it of taste, nutrition and dignity. It deserves so much better. Long-grain, short-grain, brown, black and red, there is a rice for every dish, from a classic risotto or paella to biryani and kedgeree. And who among us could say no to a creamy rice pudding with a dollop of homemade jam?
Older people especially regard rice with deep suspicion. My own dear father nearly starved to death on a recent visit to Japan. A well travelled gent, he bowed at traditional tea ceremonies and enjoyed being the tallest man in the room for a change. But the raw fish and rice was not something that any Irish septuagenarian would willingly ingest. A giant Toblerone from the airport duty free that he had in his suitcase was the only thing that kept him from certain death. But I digress.
|Japanese green tea.|
At Wa Cafe the rice is soft, sticky and delicious and the food is excellent. Even my dad would find something to eat in here. A cosy little spot just off the docks, the lovely and unassuming Yoshimi is the woman behind Wa Cafe. They’ve got Sushi rolls, Miso soup, Japanese style sandwiches, salad, bento boxes and authentic Japanese green teas. The menu is short with a rotating choice of specials ensuring there is always something new. Knowing as we do, that the Japanese are the only people on earth to ever manage the culinary magic trick of making tofu palatable, it is no surprise that there is a good choice for vegetarians. There are chopsticks, but they will give you a fork and not laugh at you if (like me) you need one.
We met up with my new BFF Mona Wise, the food columnist for The Sunday Times. As the food writer for the Galway Advertiser I am contractually obliged to hang around with another food writer and we are geographically convenient for each other. She is the Jay Rayner to my A.A. Gill, if you will. Mona had the sashimi plate, ten generous slices of raw fish. Salmon, tuna and sea bass for €12, straight from the boats, the fish could not have been any fresher. The Tempura Don with prawns at €10 was the choice of my current husband, with plentiful prawns, peppers and other vegetables in a perfectly fluffy and crisp tempura batter served on some of that excellent rice.
|Pork Katsu from the Bento Box.|
I had a Bento set of two Osouzai (Japanese Tapas). I choose Pork Katsu and Teriyaki Beef Burger with some refreshing grated daikon radish, both very delicious and served with a bowl of rice balls anointed with sesame seeds and one of delectable edamame beans for €9. The Bento set is quite generous, it’s hard to finish one by yourself and two would be enough between three. A Bento is a take away lunch box in Japan, and all of the fare at Wa is available to go at a lower price.
Considering everything is made fresh, the order was very fast to arrive at the table. Along with a couple of mugs of deeply savory miso soup to warm the cockles when we first arrived and an apple and elderflower juice the bill for the three of us came to €39.
|A warm mug of miso soup.|
The daily specials are written on a cute blackboard and so too is a tea of the month, currently chrysanthemum tea for January. Wa is a friendly cafe with efficient service and tasty food, a must for fans of sushi and sashimi and those who need a bowl of rice steaming on the table to make it a meal.
We passed on the small selection of desserts, enticingly exotic as they sounded. Matcha green tea marble cake or aduki bean ice-cream, anyone? I just treated myself to a Toblerone for afters instead. It seemed like the right thing to do.
Wa Cafe, 13 New Dock Street, Galway City. Tel:091 895850. E-mail:email@example.com
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 12-3pm & 5-9pm. Friday-Sunday 12-9pm.
Wa Cafe have a stall at the Galway Market every Saturday also.
Written for and published in the Galway Advertiser. January 17, 2013.