I am not a fan of brands leveraging their success in one niche to muscle into another niche where they don’t have much experience or expertise.
At the same time, I would be happy to see a brand that I already trust delving into another category – as long as they can make it work.
That is why I was happy to review the Wasabi knives since they were made by KAI – the same brand that gave us the Kershaw knives and Shun knives.
Going by that, are the Wasabi knives a good buy, or should you never touch them with a 10-foot pole?
In this Wasabi knives review, I discuss everything that you need to know about them.
PS This review addresses the Wasabi knives made by the KAI company, not the other Wasabi knives brand.
Table of Contents
The Best Picks on Kai Wasabi Knives
|Reviews & Price
|8-inch chef knife
|dicing, mincing, general kitchen tasks
|Check on Amazon
|6.5 inch santoku knife
|dicing, mincing, general kitchen tasks
|Check on Amazon
|4 inch paring knife
|Check on Amazon
What are Wasabi Knives?
Understanding what we are getting into is important to have an honest review of these knives.
The Wasabi knives are a collection of Japanese-style blades produced to serve home and professional chefs looking for quality cooking knives at a fair price point. Also dubbed Kai Wasabi knives, these kitchen knives are designed as an entry-level knife model that is best suited for light to medium usage in the kitchen.
Wasabi knives are made by the KAI parent company from Japan who is also in charge of churning out high-quality Shun knives (reviewed here), tactical Kershaw knives, and a variety of other categories.
Where are Wasabi Knives made?
The Wasabi knives are treated the same as every other knife which Kai makes.
Thus, Wasabi knives are manufactured in Japan in the same production facility as the other Kai knives. Kai also maintains some production facilities outside of Japan to aid the easy distribution of products to other parts of the world. To that effect, only the same production machines that are designed and manufactured in Japan are used in these other regions also.
This way, the company can achieve a higher level of production, take advantage of favorable manufacturing climes in other countries and still retain a high level of quality control.
Products in the Wasabi Line-up
It is a little challenging to find all of the products in the Wasabi line-up.
These knives have been here for some time but they are not as actively marketed as other knives from KAI.
That said, nothing was going to stop me from bringing you the models that I found already.
Kai Wasabi Chef Knives
Best For: dicing; mincing; general kitchen prep.
Chef knives are a fine place to start since that is the one most of us will end up using anyway.
Whether you are a home chef or professional cook, how does the Wasabi chef knife compare for you?
For starters, the high carbon stainless steel blade is made for extreme sharpness and prolonged edge retention. If you have never used a high carbon stainless steel knife before, prepare to take good care of this blade so that it lasts longer.
At 8 inches, Kai might have pushed things too far here. I generally prefer a 7-inch chef knife to any other size, but this knife is not too weighty for comfort. I believe that balance (such as you get on the Tojiro Zen knife – check reviews here) is laudable.
Besides dicing and general cutting, this chef knife is also finely suited for general kitchen preparation operations.
Kai Wasabi Santoku Knife
Best For: everything the chef knife can do too.
Should you choose a chef knife or a santoku knife?
I have answered that before in this guide, so we won’t be spending much time on that anymore.
What we will concentrate on, though, is the finely made 6.5-inch blade that Kai has given us under the Wasabi Santoku name. I love my knives compact, so this size makes sense to me and I would have loved to get the chef knife this way also.
The design here closely follows what we have on the chef knife above; from the handle to the blade material.
Introducing a little bit of width to the knife blade, Kai compensates for the reduced length here to achieve that balance I was talking about on the chef knives also.
It is recommended that you buy a knife that is well suited to your body type. In that case, the Kai Wasabi Santoku is designed for different kinds of users.
Kai Wasabi Black Yanagiba Knife
Best For: slicing sushi; cutting sashimi; creating thin, flat cuts.
The Yanagiba knife is not for everyone.
Mere looking at the long, 8.25-inch blade is enough to tell you that. Even if you think that you will be able to fit the knife for other purposes, you might not like it that much for stuff other than it was made for.
So, where does the Yanagiba shine best?
Cutting sushi, slicing sashimi, and creating ultra-thin slices of just about any food, meal, or fruit that needs such treatment.
The finely-weighted stainless steel blade pairs well with a polypropylene handle material to maintain the affordability and functionality of the handle in the same breath.
Finished with bead blasting on the knife to create an attractive appeal, the Yanagiba knife is a good friend to those who know what to do with it.
Kai Wasabi Nakiri Knife
Best For: cutting up large vegetables; mincing smaller vegetables.
Enjoying the pure stainless steel core steel material, the Nakiri knife is a much-specialized knife that you might not need as a home chef.
If you do a lot of cooking, then sure. If you don’t, you can get away with the chef knife or santoku knife alone in most instances.
That said, I’m particularly impressed with the dimensions of the knife (especially the curvature of the blade). These functional design elements make for the better overall usage of the knife.
However, the edge area is noticeably wider and longer than you get on most knives. This can be chalked down to the fact that the knife blade material is generally longer too. That is not a dealbreaker, but make sure to know what you are doing when sharpening the blade.
Crafted to serve as a traditional Japanese knife, the Nakiri is a strong contender for cutting up vegetables the right way before cooking.
Kai Wasabi Paring Knife
Best For: coring fruits; coring vegetables.
When the operation does not need a knife as long as the chef’s knife but won’t also get done with a knife as small as your pocket knife, a paring knife slides right into place.
It keeps surprising me that Kai can put high carbon stainless steel on these knives at the price point they come in. Perhaps more impressive is how they’ve managed to reduce the weight of the knife for improved handling without reducing the quality.
One area of concern that I have is how the handle is almost at the same length as the blade. Looking at the junction where they meet, it seems that Kai went this way to compensate for the lightweight without making the knife feel too flimsy at hand.
Of course, the same polypropylene material is the order of the day here. After all, the brand has to shave off all those costs somehow.
The next time you feel like chopping, dicing, slicing, coring, or preparing smaller vegetables, look no further than a trusted paring knife.
Kai Wasabi Filleting Knife
Best For: filleting.
Unless you deal with a lot of fish, skip this one.
No, honestly, don’t buy it.
I have spent some time looking at it and I don’t see much difference in the style and design to what the company brings with its Chef knives. As such, I don’t know why this is a good investment for me if I already have the chef knives.
If you were hard-pressed for a filleting knife, I’d recommend that you look into the Shun series to find something better.
On the production side, Kai doesn’t flop as they introduce a stainless steel blade to a polypropylene handle. The blade is also seriously sharp – although it would need some touch-ups from time to time.
Barring that, though, you should be good to go.
Still, I am not sold on the idea of this fillet knife and would personally stay away from it.
Should You Buy the Kai Wasabi Knives?
I would have said it depends on you, but that is not the answer that you’re looking for.
I have reviewed the Kai Wasabi knives under different headings for you below to help you make a better buying decision.
If you want my straight opinion, though, here it is:
The Kai Wasabi knives are fine entry series from a company that makes reputable knives. This makes the knives suitable to home cooks who don’t want something too expensive yet reliable or are just starting with knives.
If you are a professional chef, you might start with the Kai Wasabi knives but you’ll have to change them to something better soon.
That said, here are some factors to consider here:
Most of the Wasabi knives have a core high carbon stainless steel material in the blade. For the others, Kai stuck to the basic stainless steel.
I expected that every knife in this series would come with the same core steel, but that is not the best approach (according to Kai). It might be that they plan on saving overall costs while not sacrificing quality at the same time.
The handles of all knives in the series are designed with polypropylene. While the material lasts, it is not the best quality that you get on the market, I would have preferred a wooden knife handle or even stainless steel to this.
Again, looking at the price tag on the knife, I don’t mind this choice from Kai.
One thing that I love most about the handle is the lack of visible rivets. Most knives at this price range end up with flimsy rivets anyway so it’s good that’s out of the way here. Instead, Kai opts for a more robust handle fitting that lasts the knife longer into the future.
The fact that Kai is making the Wasabi knives for the entry-level market does not mean that they can afford to make poor knives.
After all, their name is still attached to the blade.
Sometimes, I look at the blade and I wonder how they make their money on such fine pieces. When the knife doesn’t hold up to certain tasks, though, I am quickly reminded that this is not a premium knife.
Kai has a strict quality control department and that shows in the final knives that ships to you.
With a well-fitted handle and blade, uniform construction, and minimal irregularities (if any at all), the build quality of this knife is impressive.
You want your knives to stay sharp for longer, and so do I.
With the high carbon stainless steel promise on most of these knives, that sounds pretty doable.
The thing is, the level of carbon stainless steel in the blade cannot be as high as what you have in the top-priced blades.
Thus, these knives will stay sharp but not as sharp as costlier kitchen knives.
You should not have to sharpen your knives more than 2-3 times in a year even on moderate usage. You’ll end up sharpening the blade on these Wasabi knives for much longer, though.
Even if you kept away from all the common things that could dull your blade, you’d still not get away with not sharpening the blade frequently. For someone who promotes honing more than sharpening, I’m afraid to say that there is just so much that honing the knife can do for you here.
Hands down to Kai for creating a knife that can work in different capacities.
You have a chef knife that can handle general kitchen duties and they threw in a santoku knife to give you a choice there.
The brand continues with a Nakiri knife in case you want something Japanese to cut your vegetables with, delivering a fine and precise cut. If you’re invested in sushi, sashimi, and or need to make delicate, ultra-thin cuts, the Yanagiba is there for you.
Although I don’t see anything special about the fillet knife myself, you can check it out to see if it catches your fancy.
There is the obvious omission of a tomato knife, cheese knife, and even a serrated blade. I would argue for the addition of a serrated blade, but I don’t see much reason to buy any of the former two unless you were a professional chef.
And, if you’re a professional chef, you won’t be spending on much time on the Kai Wasabi anyways so you don’t need those additions here.
I mentioned the choice to leave rivets out of things and go with a full handle finish instead. I believe this helps to keep the knife safe against damages and easy removal of the scales.
The design element features gradual graduation from the knife to the handle, pivoted safely to prevent cuts when your fingers slip out from under the knife.
The back of the knife is also designed to allow for thumb-press cuts without hurting yourself. If you use the blades for the right purposes, though, you won’t need to thumb-press the back for anything.
What I Love Most About Kai Wasabi Knives
Besides the fact that it is made by one of my favorite Japanese brands?
Well, I’d have to commend how well Kai can pack a lot of premium-facing features on a relatively cheap knife like this one. I also appreciate the fact that they let home cooks and chefs who don’t do much get started with a range of good knives at a fraction of the price that these models usually come at.
Furthermore, Kai isn’t pretentious about these knives. They stuck with the right kinds that every chef would need and did away with the extras that you might never touch more than a couple of times in the year.
Again, did I mention that Kai has been making great knives for decades now?
What I Don’t Like About Wasabi Knives
Everything I’m going to say here boils down to the fact that Kai is trying to save costs. But they have to be said.
For starters, these knives don’t hold their edge for nearly as long as I would like. The fact that they are carbon stainless steel should help matters, but even that is not enough to save it from a poor edge retention rating.
As if that’s not enough, they can be a hassle to sharpen. When you think about how much you’d need to sharpen (due to poor edge retention) and the challenges of sharpening, the knife might not be worth it to you anymore.
While they will last long, you might end up doing a lot of maintenance work on them. Here’s why:
The top reason why I recommend carbon stainless steel is because of how long it stays sharp and how sharp it is. To enjoy that, users would have to take extra care of these knives since they are susceptible to rust and corrosion.
That said, you would still have the problems of this material to deal with – but you might not get all of the benefits as you want it.
Final Thoughts: Kai Wasabi Knives
Kai is no stranger to making knives, and they are not new to making good knives too. Whether you want knives that you can use in the kitchen or blades that can be applied to tactical purposes, you’ve got something to look forward to from this brand.
Although Japanese knives are already a tad affordable than German, American, and Swiss-made knives, Kai still thinks you can get a bargain.
On this bargain that they have dubbed Wasabi knives, you get a fair premium on the blade and handle, enjoy entry-level usage, and can use this series to know what you want later on.
If you’re in the market for such knives, this is the best pick. If you are used to better knives or you are looking to upgrade, you are better off looking at the Shun knives and set instead.
Since both the Shun and Wasabi knives are from the same brand, you can determine which works best for you now.