The Wasabi Express

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Wasabi?  I love Wasabi!  That green pungent paste that comes up and punches you in the back of the nose.  Wasabi has a strong, hot flavor which dissipates within a few seconds but what exactly is it?

Wasabi is actually Japanese horseradish.  It is most famous in the form of a green paste used as condiment for sashimi (raw seafood) and sushi.  However, Wasabi is also used for many other Japanese dishes.

Wasabi is a root vegetable that is grated into a green paste.  In supermarkets, Wasabi is widely available as a paste or in powder form, but the Wasabi powder has to be mixed with water to become a paste.

But beware!  Many “Wasabi” powder and paste products that are available in supermarkets (and even some restaurants) contain only very little or no real Wasabi at all and are made of colored horseradish instead.  This is due to the fact that cultivation of real Wasabi is relatively difficult and expensive.

For those who want to understand Wasabi in real detail, the unique flavor of Wasabi is a result of complex chemical mixtures including some which inhibit microbe growth, perhaps with implications for preserving food against spoilage and suppressing oral bacterial growth.  So there you are, Wasabi is even (almost) as good as brushing your teeth!

After all those good words about Wasabi, just what is the Wasabi Express?  It turns out it is the new Thursday night food promotion at the Pullman Pattaya Aisawan (B. 799 net), and last week the Dining Out team sharpened its chopsticks and descended to the Beach Club restaurant to experience it.

For those who are unsure, the Pullman Pattaya Aisawan is on Soi 16, Naklua, and you get there either via Soi 18 or Soi 16 off the Pattaya-Naklua Road.  Turn into the soi joining 18 and 16 and the resort is very easily spotted on the beach side of the road and past the Centara Grand.  The Pullman Pattaya Aisawan resort is also very large, so just go to the reception desk and they will show you how to find the poolside Beach Club restaurant.

The Beach Club is set around the pool and has a deck looking out over the sea.  Inside there is a spotless central kitchen and more table settings.  Being the cold and windy weather recently, we chose the inside.

The Wasabi Express is buffet style and the range is enormous stretching around the central kitchen and then outside with live stations pool side.  There are several salads including a tuna tatar with Miso dressing and a couple of soups.  In the hot dishes there were Japanese mushroom in soy, crispy soft shell crab and Wasabi mayonnaise, salmon fillets in soy, grilled lamb cutlets and even a Japanese pizza.  Outside were oysters, tempura items, sushi and sashimi and assorted Shabu Shabu, and much more.

I have never been able to ascertain whether there is any particular ‘order’ in Japanese food, so began with the freshly shucked oysters, and sampled the free-flow Sake (B. 200) to give them a Japanese flavor.  From there on it was Japanese heaven and indulgence!

Did we enjoy the Wasabi Express?  We most certainly did, but went very gently with the Free Flow Sake!  The range is so great that it was impossible for us to sample everything on offer, but special mention must be made of the tempura.  The batter is cooked in oil that is very, very fresh.  We found ourselves eating the crumbs, dipped in Wasabi mayonnaise.  Absolutely beautiful.  Another pair of very interesting dishes were the grilled beef, wrapped around Japanese mushrooms and the Shabu Shabu featuring chicken, pork, beef, prawn and rock lobster cooked in front of you to your order.

We have never been disappointed with the Pullman Pattaya Aisawan buffets, and the Wasabi Express was no exception.  It had enough variation, plenty of choices and if you want an all-you-can-eat Japanese meal on a Thursday night this is highly recommended.  But watch the Free-Flow Sake.

Pullman Pattaya Aisawan, 445/3 Moo 5, Wongamat Beach, Pattaya-Naklua Road, Soi 16, telephone 038 411 940-8, www.pullmanpattaya aisawan.com.  Beach Club open 6.30 p.m. until 10 p.m.  Plenty of secure parking within the resort grounds.