Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wagamama

Exploring the Selfridge's food court made us hungry. Luckily, we were just around the corner from the Wagamama on Wigmore Street.

The look and feel of this Japanese restaurant chain is sleek, clean, modern: open, airy and well-lit, with white walls and beechwood tables and a stainless-steel open kitchen running the length of the space. Dining is communal, which means you're seated family-style wherever there is space at the long tables.

You know, of course, how I feel about being unnecessarily close to my fellow diners; I prefer my food to come without a side-dish of unavoidable eavesdropping. Luckily, the overall noise level in the place is so high that we could hardly hear what our waitron was saying, never mind the people next to us.

As a rule, there's enough space for everyone--unless, as was The Boy's experience, your neighbor decides to dump all her shopping on the bench between you, thereby leaving you with just enough space for half yer bum.

Oh, yeah, the food.
The menu (PDF) is big on freshness and value, with interesting choices like duck-and-leek gyoza and grilled asparagus with chili garlic salt. Big bowls of noodles and soup and rice dishes with lots of color and texture.

When I lived in London and was a Wagamama regular, I always went for the cha han (stir-fried rice topped with chicken breast) but this time I eschewed nostalgia for the yasai yaki soba, an oversized helping of wholewheat noodles with crunchy fresh peppers, scallions, beansprouts and butternut squash topped with pickled ginger. The Boy chose the chicken katsu curry, which involved panko-breaded chicken breast with a generous scoop of sticky rice and a sweet, mild curry sauce (plated with the rice on top of the chicken, rather than the other way around).


Wagamama is due to open its first US franchise on April 23 in Faneuil Hall (in the space that used to be Rustic Kitchen), with another branch in Harvard Square later in the year.



I don't doubt they'll do well.

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