When you ask a Milanese if he knows Wakaba restaurant, he will almost certainly answer that he has been there at least once in his life in the past. Wakaba has in fact been for a long time a point of reference for lovers of Japanese cuisine: after more than ten years in Piazza Emilia area, subsequently another Wakaba appeared in Baiamonti area, maintaining the same menu and formula as the previous one. Due to the pandemic, the latter closed its doors, finally opening in January in Guastalla area, not far from the Porta Romana metro stop.
Today it is an à la carte restaurant that bears the subtitle of "izakaya Milano": as is known, with izakaya we refer to the traditional Japanese taverns where you mainly drink alcohol and enjoy many different tastes. Wakaba indeed has all the characteristics of a neat and welcoming izakaya: wooden interiors, bottles of sake and wine on display and a warm and relaxing atmosphere. The management is familiar, dining here is a bit like staying with your family: the service is very kind and discreet, it's really good.
But what really stands out about this restaurant is the menu, with its kawaii and intriguing design. The dishes are really many and very Japanese. I mean that here you will find many specialties that very often are not even found in traditional Japanese restaurants of old tradition!
I have often wondered over time why a Chinese family was so prepared and expert in Japanese gastronomy and, speaking with the chef, I come to discover that not only has he worked in successful Japanese restaurants, but that he has been in Poporoya's kitchen for a long time.
The preparations are very accurate - you will feel just like in a real izakaya!
You will find, among the many proposals, a vast quantity of sushi (nigiri, some uramaki, temaki, including proposals for vegetarians), tempura and various fried foods (such as korokke), carpaccio, grilled fish and takoyaki.
I ordered a classic Japanese potato salad (made with very thinly sliced fresh vegetables, crushed hard-boiled egg and Kewpie mayonnaise, just like the original), ika maruyaki (a classic already present on the menu in the first restaurant and which consists of a whole squid cooked on the grill with teriyaki sauce - perfect accompanied with grated ginger), nasu dengaku (roasted eggplant spread with miso) and agedashi tofu (fried tofu served with soy sauce and sugar, chives and katsuobushi).
I also wanted to try sushi, which I assure you is above average of any mid-range restaurant. I emphasize that among the nigiri there was the tuna belly and the uramaki included in the set were based on delicious eel. I then tried the maki kanpyo (with soy marinated pumpkin), also good even if the seaweed could be better in my opinion.
Followed by a climb of more than fantastic kushikatsu (skewers covered with panko and fried) and yakitori. You will find a wide choice of ingredients: indulge yourself, they are one better than the other, tasty, crispy fried and tasty grilled.
Finally, a portion of ochazuke - a typical dish of home cooking, consists of steamed rice topped with salmon cooked in salt and dipped in hot tea. One of my favorite comfort foods!
As you may have guessed from my enthusiasm, I was really happy at Wakaba: this is a beautiful example of when passion and humility lead to a brilliant result. Abandon any stereotype regarding Chinese chefs who cook Japanese (it is sad to say, but unfortunately it is still a common thought to many people today ...) or all you can eat: here they know how to cook well and know in depth the Japanese gastronomic culture!
All this is combined with a good wine list (even if that of sake could be even more varied, let's give time to time) but above all the more than honest prices.
If you want to spend a great evening I assure you that this is the right place!