Although not trending on social media, the decade-old restaurant brand remains a gem for meat connoisseurs
To say that Wa Q Yakiniku is a gastronomic delight is no overstatement, and I say that not as a food writer but an ordinary diner who seeks out the best culinary quality on a budget.
Ever since launching in 2011 under the umbrella of the Loxley corporate empire, the Wa Q buffet brand has always been at the top of my list whenever an appetite for all-you-can-eat beef comes knocking.
Wa Q restaurants were my family's regular destination for shabu shabu feasts before the brand shifted its focus to tabletop grills a few years ago - and we love them even more for that.
As its name (wa means Japan and gyu mean cow) suggests, no matter if the hotpot or yakiniku (grilled meat) is featured on the restaurant's menu, Wa Q always promises customers the best-quality Japanese beef.
My review this week is for the brand's latest branch, which opened three months ago in Esplanade Ratchada.
Occupying 193m2 on the basement level of the shopping complex, the 92-seater offers an all-you-can-order tabletop BBQ that focuses on prime-grade red meat and seafood.
The clientele is mainly office workers who drop by for a speedy lunch (this particular branch also offers attractive lunch sets) or laid-back grill-it-yourself dinner.
Just like at the other locations (Siam Paragon, Bang Khae and Klong Toey, the latter of which I'm a regular), the beef served here is imported. Whether it's Australian-raised Wagyu cattle or US cattle, the meat is flown in weekly to ensure the best quality and freshness before it is carved to perfection by in-house butchers.
There are four pricing options for the buffet: 499 baht, 699 baht, 899 baht and 1,299 baht. The prices include unlimited servings of all types of meat and seafood in the selected package as well as rice, vegetables, soup, dipping sauces, condiments and ice cream.
Free-flowing soft drinks cost 50 baht extra per person while beer, sake and umeshu are priced at 100 baht per bottle.
In the standard 499 baht set, two types of beef, the Australian Wagyu oyster blade and US rib-eye are on offer along with 14 other options of pork, poultry and seafood including kurobuta pork, salmon, squid and New Zealand mussels.
Don't let the low price scare you away from settling on the economical option. Paying less - especially at Wa Q Yakiniku - doesn't necessarily mean the least amount of pleasure. A regular like me can confirm you will leave satisfied even with this set.
However, if you want a finer selection such as Australian Black Angus, karubi short rib, top sirloin, marbled hump cut, lean shoulder cut, brisket rolls, beef tongue, lamb slices, kurobuta pork neck, Japanese tokujo sausages, scallops, Norwegian mackerel and large river prawn, you'll have to order the 699 baht option.
The river prawns, which are delivered to the restaurant three times per week, are sizable and exhibit a flavoursome quality. While the beef was absolutely delectable and marked with tasty fatty ribbons, especially the Black Angus, there's also the gloriously-red succulent short ribs and melt-in-themouth brisket rolls.
Kurobuta pork neck proved to be amazingly elastic, tender and flavoursome even when accidentally overcooked. Meanwhile, the imported pork sausage gave a popping delight.
Diners going for the most-popular 899 baht package will enjoy a subtler addition of Wagyu rib cap, jo rosu (shoulder chuck), jo karubi (premium short rib), premium scallops and bone-in lamb rib.
However, if you wish for the best yakiniku experience, go for the top-tier 1,299-baht option which I guarantee you won't regret.
The package features everything on the Wa Q menu - a total of 47 items of meat and seafood.
The highlights include Maruta Wagyu (prime-cut brisket carved into rectangular prisms); harami (inside skirt); tsubo (square ribs); Wagyu saikoro (diced beef brisket); and jo tan (the upper part of beef tongue, which provides an elastic crunch and wellrounded taste).
Representing the best of seafood are large Hokkaido scallops served on their shell and to be cooked on the tabletop stove with garlic butter, cheese & tobiko dressing or a savoury sweet tare sauce.
There is also ready-to-eat options such as gyu tataki (flash-seared beef fillets), yamitsuki cabbage salad and a house salad with ponsu jelly dressing.
Another factor that makes a feast here a flawless experience is the house-concocted, fruit-based dipping sauce which helped enhance - but never overpower - the genuine excellent quality of the grilled meat.
Ice cream might be the only dessert offered but it's always proved a perfect finale to the protein-heavy feast.
Also, only available at the Esplanade branch are lunch sets ranging from 259 baht for an all pork option; 299 baht for beef option; and 329 baht for assorted seafood. All three come with free refills of rice, soup and condiments.
For hotpot aficionados, Wa Q shabu shabu can be enjoyed in the style of dine-in buffet at its Klong Toey branch and as a takeaway from all four outlets. A beef set featuring five platters of Wagyu and Angus beef costs 1,799 baht inclusive of a complimentary electric shabu shabu pot. There's also a selection of Japanese beef bowl rice and Thai-styled beef noodle dishes - which all use prime-quality Wagyu - on offer for takeaway and delivery.
Wa Q Yakiniku
Esplanade Ratchada, B floor Ratchadaphisek Road Call 02-245-4522 and 085-486-7222 Open daily 10am-10pm Park at Esplanade's car park Most credit cards accepted