Other oases of great sashimi and takoyaki dot our town, too, such as Irving’s beloved izakaya Mr. Max. But many of our region’s Asian Americans live 20 miles to the north of all those dining rooms. Where are employees working at Toyota’s North American headquarters, just off Legacy Drive in Plano, supposed to go for first-rate sushi at lunchtime?
The answer is an excellent restaurant that most people south of Interstate 635 have not even heard of: Wa Kubota.
The only sign of football fandom at his restaurant, which is just a few traffic lights away from The Star in Frisco, is the college game on TV on a Saturday night visit. But there are sleek private dining rooms with discreet sliding doors, display cases filled with tapestries and masks, a museum-like setting of tea service items and separate bars for sushi and drinking. Look up at the ceiling, too: It’s painted sky blue and finished with little clouds.
Wa Kubota’s menu attempts to encompass a little bit of everything, and mostly it succeeds. The best items are those which are most traditionally Japanese, whether they are pressed sushi pieces or bowls of miso soup.
It’s a pleasure to see kamonegi on the menu, since this dish of roasted and thinly sliced duck is available almost nowhere else in Dallas. Each piece of rare-pink duck has a kiss of smoke flavor and a thin strip of fat along the edge; the only garnishes offered, or needed, are slivers of green onion and a dollop of spicy Japanese karashi mustard ($10).
There’s another great appetizer here, too: takowasa ($8). A lot of Japanese restaurants serve this bowl of raw octopus chopped and mixed with fresh wasabi. There’s not a lot to takowasa; it barely counts as a recipe. The key is to cut the octopus finely enough that it’s easy to chew, then toss it with the best wasabi you can find. Not many places in North Texas have better wasabi than Wa Kubota.
Sushi and sashimi here is of consistently high quality. One night, we sampled a few pieces of salmon nigiri, the meat as soft as butter and the rice perfectly seasoned ($20), before moving on to a series of exquisitely made rolls.
There’s a slightly more affordable way to sample toro: Order two long, fatty slices as sushi, draped over subtly flavored rice and a tiny, just-noticeable pinch of wasabi ($18, but the pieces are big).
Wa Kubota’s more traditional makizushi rolls are well-constructed, too. With nori rolled around the outside, they include fillings such as freshwater eel ($10) or fried soft-shell crab ($15) — plus small dollops of roe, both for added flavor and a pop of bright orange color. Futomaki, with its vegetarian filling of shiitake, cucumber and egg, is a tightly made and refreshing bite ($10).
On another visit, the sushi and sashimi specials included fresh giant clams, plus salty, briny mounds of salmon roe piled onto rice and wrapped with nori ($8 for two). But the winner of the night was a pressed battera roll, made by folding ginger, shiso leaves and kelp into the rice, adding a portion of mackerel on top and pressing the roll into a flat rectangular shape ($18).
The other letdown was an excursion into the grilling portion of the menu, with a yellowtail collar ($18) that dried out without crisping up, so the meat was overcooked without the smoky, charcoal-scented goodness that marks fish collars at Tei Tei Robata.
Wa Kubota has a whole series of lunch specials to appeal to office workers from Legacy Town Center and Plano’s northwestward sprawl of corporate headquarters. But at dinner, the restaurant grows quiet; even on a Saturday night, the dining room is less than half full and the private rooms go unused.
The rest of the Dallas area apparently just doesn’t know what they’re missing. The northern suburbs in particular can’t rival Wa Kubota for traditional Japanese fare — futomaki, takowasa, even potato salad with slivers of cucumber and bacon — served with graciousness in an elegant space. Dinner service here should be much busier than it is, especially during football season.
Wa Kubota, 8448 Parkwood Blvd. #700, Plano. 469-606-5222, wakubota.com. Open 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday.