“Have you been here before?” asked every server, hostess and employee who dropped by our table — and there were many — at the reborn Tex Wasabi’s in downtown Santa Rosa.

The mantra comes with the instant answer, “Doesn’t it look great?” followed by the staff pointing out some new feature: The super cool fish tank upstairs, the new bar, the new layout, the new hostess station, the new menus.

You only get one chance to make a second first impression.

After being shuttered for more than 18 months, Guy Fieri’s flagship Tex Wasabi’s in downtown Santa Rosa reopened Tuesday (5/17/11).  The restaurant closed in 2009 after a faulty sewer pipe ruptured, causing severe water damage. As crews began renovations on the old building, more damage surfaced and more repairs were needed.

The interior is transformed for the better, with a more diner-friendly layout — more restaurant seating, the bar moved further back and the sushi station tucked closer to the kitchen. The vibe is as amped-up as you’d expect a Fieri restaurant to be, with lots of lights, music and action all around. And, let’s just be frank about this…the place smells a heck of a lot better than it used to.

Cowboy Burger

On first blush, the food is on par with the rest of Fieri’s restaurants. It sounds really fun, it’s got lots of wacky, spicy ingredients and appetizers are king. It’s Friday night food that goes down best with a 64 ounce “bowla” mojito.

You pretty much can’t go wrong with anything fried, the Asian green beans rock, the barbecue sliders are actually pretty solid, Guy’s bottled barbecue sauce is really tasty and the burgers (we tried the Cowboy, with pulled pork atop a Snake River hamburger) are safe bets. Guy’s favorites are noted on the menu (usually solid picks). The sushi is worth skipping altogether. Especially the one with the barbecue and fries inside — yeah, not nearly as fun as it sounds.

My take: Considering all the hubbub, Tex Wasabi’s is what it is. It’s fun and loud and silly and very Guy. Go for drinks and appetizers and burgers and barbecue sliders and you’ll likely leave with a smile on your face.

Tex Wasabi’s: 515 4th Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

++++++++

Guy Sighting? The opening comes on the heels of Fieri’s launch of a new cookbook/biography Guy Fieri Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It Filled with recipes and personal anecdotes, it’s already climbed to #186 on Amazon.com. Fieri is expected to come to the restaurant’s grand opening sometime in late June or July.