Free noodles cure what ails you
The resto doesn't actually open until Monday, but this early event was a smart idea: not only did it give the staff a chance to learn the menu, figure out the unorthodox service process (diners sit at long benches, family style; orders are punched into handheld devices that relay info to the open kitchen) and settle into a rhythm, but it also generated early buzz, both from those who ate there and from passersby who wondered what the fuss was about (and why they weren't allowed in).
For The Boy and I, it was also an opportunity for something restorative. We were both a little under the weather--he because he felt a cold a-comin', I because I was recovering from a tad too much celebrating my new job (new job, everybody!!) the previous night (an evening that went Middlesex>Central Kitchen>Enormous Room). So the prospect of healthy, spicy, fresh food was very welcome.
Wagamama was satisfyingly busy; if they can fill the room several times over before the place is officially open, it's a good sign, free food or not.
Of course, the downside is that the way the space is designed--tiled floor, few interior walls, glass and metal--means sound bounces off every surface. The conversations of the mostly young crowd and the musical cacophony from the kitchen do not make it a good place for quiet discussion. Or hangovers.
But everything improved once the food arrived. The duck gyoza were plump and juicy; the asparagus spears were fat and fresh and sprinkled with sesame seeds. I was craving a big ol' bowl of soup, so had the salmon ramen--a generous piece of tender fish in a bowl of peppery, nutritious, head-clearing broth. The Boy went for the chicken kare lomen, which involved grilled chicken and lime over noodles in a sweet-spicy coconut-ginger soup.
And lo and behold, we were cured. It's amazing what a little free food can do.