After nearly three years of take-out only, the Quinpool Road institution Wasabi House opened its dining room this week. For lovers of affordable Japanese cuisine, friendly service and the fact that you’ll somehow always receive a few extra rolls on the house, this is the post-pandemic reopening of all post-pandemic reopenings.
Chef and owner Richard Wu is busy, like always, chopping up maki at the sushi bar when The Coast swings by on Friday. “I just want to say thank you because after COVID it's our first opening,” is the message he wishes to give his legion of loyal customers. “We can’t wait to see people like normal. So we’re happy about that,” he says without putting the knife down.
“We talked about it every day, opening up for dining,” says server Christine Dedrick. “It was like a big exciting thing that we're all waiting for the go-ahead on by the owner himself who works at the sushi bar every day. Like 13 hours a day.”
Why did the beloved sushi joint, a perennial winner in the Best of Halifax poll, stick to take-out for so long? It was mostly staffing issues, Dedrick explains. When COVID hit, Wasabi House, like basically everywhere, laid off the bulk of its staff. Hiring and training new servers, kitchen staff and sushi bar staff took “a lot” of time.
The dining room got a face-lift too, with new benches—they took a while—and fresh menus. Dedrick says the goal was “to renovate and make the space feel fresh again, and make it feel clean. Keeping the same atmosphere that it had before, but just like a bit of an upgrade.”
The restaurant is operating at about two-thirds capacity to start, and aiming to fully reopen soon. Wasabi House is looking to hire more people, and Dedrick encourages “anyone” to apply. Dedrick’s also encouraging customers to return to the dining room: “Are you ready to line up in the snow? We’re ready for you.”