Wako Donkasu serves as a good reminder that looks can be deceiving. I expected some sort of delicate food served in the gorgeous looking dining room I've noticed on the south side of Olympic a couple blocks east of Vermont. We easily convinced Peter and Michelle to join us in the unknown, which turned out to be a ... cutlet place. My husband got the last laugh, since I was in it for the decor and don't care for cutlets, and he LOVES them. So the arrangement worked out quite nicely, actually.
The interior is full of Dwell meets the Martha Stewart set in K-Town. Try-this-at-home elements abound. Rectangular light fixtures have delicate paper loosely attached, which are a clever DIY touch. The other side of the restaurant is lit with round pendants (pictured), and the large centerpiece placed in the middle of a communal table is the best use of fake flowers I've ever seen. The west wall with dark and light wood horizontal panels placed at random intervals is brilliant. Few places in this town peddling huge meals for around the ten dollar price point offer such a sophisticated interplay of texture and overall design sense. It's accessible Asian contemporary modernism put into action.
And what a menu! The wham bam forwardness of the graphic design lays it out clear and simple. Wako serves just about everything fried. Hamburger croquette? Check. Pork katsu served between slices of soft fluffy white bread? Wako does it. The sesame seeds given to us with a mortar and pestle keeps the fun coming; the waiter then pours the tangy sweet katsu sauce on top of the ground sesame mixture for dipping fried strips of protein.
I get the fish combo, which for $12 is an insane amount of food. In addition to the battered white fish with tartar sauce, it also had a big shrimp, a fat ball of mashed potato croquette (with peas and corn bits inside), and sides including a lovely shredded cabbage salad with miso dressing, and bummer, bad miso soup. It's hard to mess up miso soup, but Wako manages to make a gross, sweet one. The soba noodles won't be winning any awards either. Anyway, these are minor strikes. The fried specialties are light enough so that we don't feel completely ill when dinner is over.
Dinner for four comes to $50, including tip. For dessert and a nightcap we head to Campanile, since it's a quiet week there and the bar is empty. The tab for three glasses of dessert wine and two desserts is nearly double that of dinner. The evening held some nice surprises for us, but sadly, this last one is more amusing than shocking.
exact address unknown; Olympic Blvd. between Normandie and Vermont Avenues