Wonita Sushi Seafood & Bar opened quietly earlier this month in the former Outback Steakhouse at 1260 S. Moorland Rd. in Brookfield, offering guests their first taste of a menu filled with both seafood dishes and all-you-care-to-eat sushi.
The mission at Wonita might be best summarized by the meaning of its name, which when translated from Japanese means: "you me them." It's a sentiment that co-owner Jessie Jin says embodies the notion of "togetherness and unity for our family and community."
Step inside the restaurant, and you’ll find the classic warm wood detail remaining from the building’s steakhouse days. But that’s juxtaposed against updates including updated furnishings, stone detail, geometric patterns and pops of modern pink.
Freshly painted walls sport modern art, while booths and banquettes offer varied seating, along with tables to accommodate larger groups.
Jin says Wonita aspires to offer guests an exceptional dining experience, which not only includes efficient, friendly service, but also ultra fresh seafood. The latter, she says, is possible in great part due to demand, which allows the restaurant to accept seafood deliveries as many as four times a week.
That includes maintaining a tank of live lobsters, which are seasoned, steamed and served to guests in a variety of preparations.
At the bar
At the center is Wonita’s bar, which does double duty as a sushi bar on one side and a traditional bar on the other, offering a full complement of draft beer (Japanese, craft and macro), wine and sake (junmai, ginjo, honjozo and nigori) along with a menu of signature cocktails, including a lychee martini, matcha mai tai and peach Moscato sangria.
Guests can also enjoy the theatrics of a Wonita sake bomb: a shot of house sake, balanced on two chopsticks over a glass of pear cider. You say “sake,” and the server says “bomb,” while simultaneously bumping the table with his or her fist, causing the shot to fall into the cider.
Seafood and not-seafood
As for the food, there’s a bit of something for everyone – including those who might not love sushi or seafood – and the menu is flexible enough to accommodate solo dining, sharing and appetites of all sizes.
On the appetizer menu, guests will find familiar items from shrimp shumai and crab rangoon to edamame and tempura shrimp, all priced between $5 and $8.99.
There's even a tasty fried fish appetizer: whitefish – usually tilapia or snapper – with a crisp katsu-style panko breading and tender, juicy interior (two pieces for $8.95). The dish could stand in as a creative substitute for the usual Friday night fish fry, maybe paired with crispy kani salad (crab, cucumber, masago, mayo, $7.50).
Delve further into the menu and you'll find a variety of non-seafood specialties including chicken katsu, ham fried rice, Korean-style short ribs and garlic spare ribs. Guests are also invited to "make their own" Peking duck bao, thanks to a plate featuring steamed buns, scallions, thinly sliced duck and hoisin sauce all ready to be turned into custom buns.
But seafood rules the menu with options like walnut shrimp is presented on a bed of greens, while steamed scallops are smothered in garlic sauce and served beautifully right in their shells.
Many items are prepared simply. Fresh oysters are served on the half shell (with ketchup, horseradish and lemon) while simple breaded and fried oysters are also available.
Steamed snow crab clusters are steamed and presented with plenty of drawn butter for dousing.
Meanwhile, lobster is showcased in a variety of ways, including steamed (with drawn butter) or dressed in spicy Sichuan or ginger sauce.
Sushi and sashimi
On the sushi side, there’s nigiri and beautifully presented sashimi (pictured: Sashimi deluxe: shrimp, salmon, tuna, octopus, plus an order of uni).
There’s also a wealth of maki, including a selection of vegetable-based sushi and rolls using cooked fish.
Cooked rolls include signature baked rolls like the dynamite (spicy tuna, cream cheese and avocado topped with baked crab, scallop and eel sauce, $16); the torched fire dragon roll (shrimp tempura, cream cheese, salmon, white tuna, eel sauce and mayo, $15); or the deep-fried Wonita roll with salmon, shrimp tempura and honey cheese topped with eel sauce and spicy mayo ($9 for five pieces; $16 for ten).
Prefer fresh, raw fish in creative form? There are flavor-popping options like the angel hair roll (shrimp tempura and apple topped with crab, avocado, panko, masago and scallion, $15) or the spicy crispy tuna roll with cucumber, crunch and jalapeno topped with tuna, white tuna, cilantro, sesame oil and ponzu sauce ($14).
All dishes and sushi are available a la carte or as part of Wonita’s "Endless Sushi & Seafood" offering, which is available for lunch ($17.99 per person on weekdays until 3 p.m.) or dinner ($26.99 per person and all day on weekends). Customers simply fill out a menu card with their meal selections and turn it in to waitstaff to order.
All items are included in the price. But guests are asked to order only what they can eat (leftovers are subject to a fee); and if a table would like to share a wide variety of items (sharing is encouraged), each person at the table will be charged for the endless menu.
Guests who order the "endless sushi" option should also note that some seafood dishes are accompanied by a minimal upcharge. (For instance, lobster and crab dishes are +$8.99.)
Wonita is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.