A typical Monday morning in Bedford Square? Maybe not, but here at Westport Lifestyle Magazine, we spiced up our restaurant review with a little taste test.
The new eatery on the block is Wafu Noodle and Korean BBQ. Owners and Westport residents Simon and Elaine Chen opened Wafu Southport, a South Asian hibachi-style sushi restaurant eight years ago. Wafu Westport, opened eight months ago is a bit different: it’s Korean-style Asian fusion, so you can get a poke bowl, sushi, or Korean BBQ, grilled at your table.
Now that the parking lot is not a construction site, business is thriving. Simon believes his repeat customers are coming back for the flavorful variety and the family-style experience: "With traditional hibachi you find yourself seated with another group. This is more intimate.”
The décor is ornate, textured, and layered like the food. With a blend of black, gold, and carved wood embellishments, Elaine transformed the space into an ethnic experience. Outdoors, guest can swing while they dine in covered rocking rickshaw tables. Inside, upholstered banquettes and silk pillows create a sense of privacy.
And what’s better than a cozy spot for a shared meal among family or friends, especially when those friends are also business partners, like our taste testers. These four wildly entertaining locals are the co-founders of TUCK Gin, a new spirit named after the Saugatuck River.
The story goes that Jonathan Davies (a.k.a JD) was crafting batches of gin in his basement, “one of only a few gins in the world that distills botanical by botanical,” he explains, and giving them to friends. He connected with Fernando J. Alva Mirás, who always wanted to create a spirit brand. “I tried this incredible gin and said ‘this is it!’”, insists Fernando. Through a serendipitous Craigslist connection, they met Geoff Shafer, who has experience designing packaging for alcohol brands. Former lawyer and banker Alex Metviner came on board, and TUCK Gin was born.
But back to BBQ, because good gin demands good food. First, diners choose their protein. Our testers selected shrimp, marinated chicken, and bulgogi (beef short ribs), and chefs grill it right on the table. Each meal comes with an array of Korean small plates including kimchi, king oyster mushroom, corn with crab, bamboo, spicy marinated cucumber, and white radish.
While waiting for their BBQ, our tasters judged some artfully presented appetizers.
JD applauded the tuna tower for its very delicate flavor: "the fresh mango and avocado complement it beautifully.”
A self-proclaimed foodie who eats out “almost every night,” Alva Mirás is no stranger to the poke bowl. He said this one is “perfectly done.”
Meanwhile, self-proclaimed non-foodie, Metviner pronounced the dumplings, “much better than Chinese food!”
Our four-top full of wing-men was eager to pluck apart the next appetizer, Wafu's Korean wings. Unlike buffalo wings, which often start out frozen, Wafu's are fresh, marinated, and extra juicy. “My four sons would love these,” Metviner claims, “just enough spice and a lot of meat.”
If it’s a special occasion, try the Waygu beef for $148. Why the hefty heifer price tag? Chen explained that the Japanese beef gets its buttery soft texture “because the cows are massaged while they drink beer and listen to music!”
While hip-hop beef wasn't on the menu for this meal, the main event was quickly served. Taste testers tried three different meats dipped in a variety of sauces, including Korean BBQ, and mayonnaise-based Yum Yum sauce.
The shrimp was an instant hit, paired with the hot pepper condiment to pull out the flavor. Schafer approved of the vegetables: "crunchy and not swimming in sauce."
The marinated chicken also earned a solid rating for its subtle flavor. “I go to a lot of Korean restaurants,” said Metviner, “and this one is authentic but very accessible.”
The clear winner of the BBQ taste-off was the signature beef bulgogi, “perfectly cooked,” and voted 5 stars by our judges across the board.
Also universally agreed upon was the positive vibes from a meal spent talking, tasting, and taking it all in. Metviner said, “with this type of food you have to eat more slowly, you can put away your phone and have a conversation.” J.D. adds that the slow, mindful dining style is better for digestion. And while relaxing, he recommends trying "some TUCK Gin and a little tonic."
TUCK Gin, launched just a few months ago, can already be found in 99 restaurants across Fairfield County. Something tells me Wafu may become restaurant 100.
Taste Test Scores
Alex, Geoff, Jonathan, Fernando
Shrimp: 4, 4, 4, 3
Chicken: 4, 4, 4, 3
Bulgogi: 5, 5, 5, 5
Alex Metviner, Co-Founder/VP: “The décor has an imperial feel but with a hip modern edge.”
Fernando J. Alva Mirás, Co-Founder/Sales Director: “Having all of these little plates is just plain fun and healthy. It’s a full experience, you see, hear, and smell your food cooking.”
Geoff Shafter, Co-/Founder/Marketing Director: “I love this style of eating because there’s no room for your phone on the table, and there’s no time to look at it, you are too involved in eating.”
Jonathan Davies, Co-Founder/President: “This meal would go best with some TUCK gin and a little tonic.”