These days, you don’t have to go far for an authentic Japanese culinary adventure. Wagaya, a Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, is serving up a vast and wonderful array of Japanese cuisine at their new location in Emory Village. Owner and chef Takashi Otsuka’s mission is to offer patrons many of the same delicious foods he ate while growing up in Japan. “Wagaya means our home in Japanese. And we like to offer our customers the opportunity to relax and enjoy a variety of traditional Japanese dishes in a casual dining atmosphere. A lot of people are familiar with sushi, but there is so much more to Japanese cuisine than sushi,” he explains.
Your Japanese dining experience begins when you enter the restaurant. The design of the entrance is based on a traditional Japanese temple design called torii. A torii symbolically marks the transition to a more sacred place. Otsuka, who came to the Atlanta area to attend college when he was 18, designed the interior using simple elements of nature such as bamboo shades and wood timbers to reflect his Japanese heritage and to make guests more comfortable.
Wagaya offers up an array of popular sushi creations – Sushi Sashimi, Nigiri Sashimi and a variety of traditional and signature rolls like the popular Devil’s Breath “Akumano Toiki” (it’s torch-seared tableside) – and so much more. While you may not be familiar with the non-Sushi items on the menu, like Katsu Curry or Hitsumabushi (broiled eel), you’ll find that there is a common thread among the menu selections. They are all as lovely to look at as they are flavorful. “Every dish is well-executed, and we emphasize presentation in everything that we prepare,” notes Otsuka. “The menu is extensive, but don’t be overwhelmed. The wait staff is very knowledgeable and happy to help with your selection.”
They can also help you with the proper pronunciations. The special lunch combinations here are called Teishoku (tay-sho-ku) and include a combination of a main rice dish, miso or udon soup and/or sushi. Wagaya also offers a salad, roll and soup combo for lunch.
The ramen here, available six ways, has earned Wagaya accolades from food critics and frequent patrons at their popular location on 14th Street in Atlanta. Unlike the wavy packaged noodles that sustained many a college student, the ramen here is the real deal—a broth-based soup (often made from pork or fish) with noodles, meat and/or vegetables that is typically spiked with soy sauce or miso.
“It is one of our best selling dishes. We offer six different kinds – Premium White Tonkotsu, Black Sesame Tonkotsu, Red Spicy Tonkotsu, Traditional Shoyu, Corn Butter Negi Miso, and Spicy Curry Ramen – and at around $10, it’s a great choice for lunch,” Otsuka says.
If you are looking for an extraordinary craft beer experience, Wagaya is an appropriate destination as well. They offer the largest selection of Japanese craft beers in the region with more than 30 diverse selections available, ranging from rice lager (Echigo Koshihikari) to a sweet blue beer made from the water of icebergs (Okhotsk Blue Draft).
Not an adventurous eater? Not a problem. Your wait staff can steer you toward selections that you are more familiar with like fried shrimp (Shrimp Tempura), fried chicken (Chicken Nanban) or an organic green salad. “We want everyone to feel at home at our home, Wagaya,” affirms Otsuka.
Wagaya Emory Village Awaits!
Wagaya Emory Village is located at:
1579 N. Decatur Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30307
Lunch is served:
Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
(closed Saturday and Sunday)
Dinner is served:
5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 5-10:30 p.m. on Saturday.
(Sunday hours coming soon.)
You can order online at Wagaya.us or text WAGAYA to 33733 to download their app for easy ordering.
For more information, call 678.949.9278 or check the website and menu at Wagaya.us.
Want to find out how to get started on your extraordinary culinary adventure? Try one of chef/owner Takashi Otsuka’s favorite authentic Japanese entrees’.
Broiled fresh water eel on rice served in a stone bowl with various toppings and Dashi soup made of Japanese kelp and bonito.
2. Two-Layer Chirashi
Chirashi is simply sashimi on the top of rice. Wagaya’s chef jazzes it up and makes it two layers by using wooden sake boxes. The first layer is elegantly decorated sashimi on rice. The second layer is sushi rice with various toppings such as masago (smelt roe), tobillo (flying fish roe), bonito flake, finely cut seaweed and soy marinated shiitake.
Chuka comes with three dishes: ramen (broth with noodles), karaage (Japanese fried chicken with garlic and ginger flavor) and pork gyoza (grilled dumplings) along with rice. And for the ramen you may select from three options: tonkotsu (pork broth), miso and soy.
For more information, visit Wagaya.us or call 678.949.9278.
by Lorrie Bryan • Photography by PollyVisuals