There are a lot of popular food pairings that at one time seemed odd, but are now generally enjoyed. A few that come to mind are chicken and waffles, chocolate-covered potato chips and at one point, people probably thought dipping pizza in ranch was weird. On Iron Chef, there isn’t anything they won’t turn into ice cream, and the judges usually seem pretty okay with it.
A recent culinary concept that celebrates the odd-pairing mix is Guy Fieri’s Tex Wasabi restaurants, which combines southern barbeque and sushi under one roof. Most of the time, if I have a craving for barbeque, I want a side of macaroni and cheese, biscuits or potato salad, and if I want some sushi, I think of a side of edemame to go with it. However, because I like to support the television chefs we all know and love, I decided to try Tex Wasabi’s not once, but twice, visiting both the Sacramento and Santa Rosa locations.
One of my favorite past times is to read menus, especially large menus. Although I tend to feel overwhelmed when I actually get into a restaurant with a massive menu, like the Cheesecake Factory, I like to make mock meals, making pretend endless combinations of appetizers, main courses, sides and desserts. So in preparation for my first visit during a business trip to Sacramento (yes, I was all alone and sat at the bar), I scoured the menu online for days before the trip. With so many items on the menu that are so different, it really helps to be familiar with what you are getting into, otherwise you could end up picking a few things that really don’t go together. Although in this instance, that was kind of the point!
When I finally made it, I pretty much knew what I wanted, so I settled on the waka waka appetizer, wontons covered with a cabbage mix (I love won tons!), and two “gringo” sushi rolls, one with avocado and tempura pieces, and one with barbeque chicken and french fries. Both were covered within a rice paper wrap instead of a traditional seaweed casing, so they were really more like spring rolls than sushi. As the seaweed is usually my least favorite part about sushi, it worked out well for me. Everything was good, and I felt like I had a decent foray into both the sushi and barbeque aspects of the menu. However, it didn’t really satisfy a craving for either sushi or barbeque.
I also knew I needed to explore the barbecue side a little more, so I mentally planned to return the next time I was in the area. While I didn’t make it back to Sacramento, I was able to check on the Santa Rosa location, which in my opinion, was much cuter. So the second time, I didn’t go alone and we had a very interesting seared tiny pepper appetizer, a combo that featured sushi, ribs and pulled pork. Second verdict: both the sushi and barbeque are good, creative appetizers, good service, but they need more combos! When you are faced with two very different types of food, don’t make us choose; help us have the right amount of each!
Having just a taste of both sushi and barbeque wasn’t exactly satiating, although it was good. I just didn’t get that feeling you get after a big meal of a specific type of food where you knew you didn’t need to eat it again for a while. And maybe that was the genius behind the concept. You can’t really get tired of any type of food if you are only having a little of it in combination with something else. When it comes to unlikely food pairings, in the melting pot that is America, I say, the more culinary combos, the better.
Overall verdict: Definitely worth checking out if you want to try a new take on some classics. Try to order a bit of everything (why not try the Tennessee BBQ’d Bologna?) and you will definitely leave full with an expanded idea of how to pair menu items for your next dinner party.