“Bob’s the man.” That’s typically how I start the conversation when someone asks me what my favorite sushi place is in Kansas City.
It’s Bob Wasabi Kitchen. Bob is the best. Behind the sushi bar, he works diligently, his airpods in, which, I found out play soft rock most days. Fresh fish is flown in daily and his specials reflect that. Large, fresh, thick slices of ahi tuna, salmon belly and yellowtail are brought out to me over the most perfect and fluffy white rice I have ever had. BIBLE – this rice is the best. He has spent his life perfecting it and it shows.
It’s an unassuming building. In a strip next to a liquor store and a hookah lounge, it’s not screaming high-end but that’s what makes it so charming. It’s a small place, maybe 10 to 12 tables plus a few seats at the sushi bar. It’s intimate. His daughters work with him, Esther, always bringing a cup of sake to the table to cheers and tell us about what’s going on in her life. It’s a family business and they take absolute pride in what they do. I order a large Sapporo – I can’t not do it, it’s the cherry on top of the perfect sushi sundae.
I start with the Sushi Nigeri (2pc). I always order the Unagi ($8), Sake ($8) Toro ($8) and Hamachi (8) that’s eel, salmon, tuna belly and yellowtail respectively. This is the part where bringing a few friends is handy because all the rolls are so good, it’s quite hard to choose. But I will try otherwise I’ll just be sharing with you the entire menu – I truly could but here are my highlights.
Unagi Mango Roll ($16) spicy tuna wrapped in unagi with fresh mango slices. The Hawaiian Roll ($17) shrimp tempura and kani salad topped with poke and the TNT Roll ($15) fresh spicy tuna and salmon, fried tempura style with drizzled sriacha, spicy mayo and eel sauce. Craving something just for you? Their Spicy Fish Bowl ($23) is a fan favorite and always hits the spot. An assortment of sashimi and veggies over rice in a spicy chili sauce brings the right amount of heat. In the winter especially, I order the Udon ($10). I love udon noodles and the broth Bob serves it with is comforting and delicious, while a bit slurpy, just warn your date they might be in the splash zone. Truth be told, you can’t go wrong with whatever you order. If they offer a special, I take it, I’ve not been disappointed once.
I try to get a seat in a view of the sushi bar. I like to watch Bob do his thing. Meticulous, thoughtful, diligent – I wonder what his favorite is? Is there a secret menu I don’t know about? What does Bob have for dinner? These questions plague me at night so one day I’m going to have to ask him. One of my dearest friends is a frequent patron of Bob’s. He told me once,
“I know I can count on them to lift my spirits when I’m down or celebrate with me when times are good. I used to take dates there quite a bit but the place meant too much to me and it wasn’t something I wanted to share with people until I knew it was right. The sushi is amazing, but I go for the people.”
He’s right, the people make Bob’s the experience that it is.
Each chilled, flavorful, perfectly balanced bite is better than the last. I raise the tuna belly to my lips, it rests between two chopsticks, held up in the air like I would hold a glass of champagne (or Sapporo in this case) though I highly recommend the sparkling sake if you’ve never imbibed. You may pay more than if you were visiting a chain sushi place but you won’t get the quality and fresh flavor profiles Bob puts on your plate. There’s a quote I love, “The details aren’t the details, the details are the product” and Bob has those details in spades.