Review: wagamama

The first wagamama opened in 1992 in London's Bloomsbury. It is inspired by traditional Japanese ramen bars and Asian flavours, and the creators designed wagamama with intentions to offer a new kind of dining experience - one that offers fresh Japanese-inspired food in a friendly, vibrant setting. Now they have an award-winning series of restaurants open across 17 countries!

We recently went to the Exeter branch to try it out.  From the minute that you walk in you can tell that you will experience something quite unique.  The seating is comprised of long benches, meaning you are surrounded by other dinners.  This creates a buzz of an atmosphere, and is something that is very different than what I have experienced before.  Being a Friday night, the place was packed and there was a good 10 minute wait before a space at a table became available.  Once we were seated we perused the menu, which is made up of classic ramen, curries, teppanyaki, salads and sides.   We chose a selection of sides as well as a main each.  Another thing that wagamama do very differently is that the food is brought to you as and when it is ready, meaning if you are dining with friends your food may all arrive at different times.  We were no different, and Nick's food was brought a good 15 minutes before mine along with the sides, which meant he had nearly finished before mine even came out!

We chose to have Duck gyoza -five deep-fried duck dumplings served with a spicy cherry hoi sin sauce and Pulled pork gyoza -five steamed, grilled pulled pork dumplings served with a spiced black vinegar and ginger sauce and.  Both the pork and the duck were lovely and tender and melt in the mouth.  Both went really well with their respective sauces and made for a great appetiser or side.

For mains Nick went for a wagamama ramen - noodles in a miso, ginger and chicken soup topped with grilled chicken, barbecued pork, prawns, mussels, half a tea-stained egg, chikuwa and wakame, garnished with menma and spring onions.  This is essentially a big bowl of soup that is packed with meat and veg.  Nick is a big fan of wagamama and has been here lots.  He said that they seems to have changed the volume, and where he normally feels stuffed after eating one, he was left feeling a little hungry, even with the sides.  They flavour was good and the meat deliciously tender, but it was a little bland.

I had a chicken katsu curry- chicken breast deep-fried in panko breadcrumbs served with a curry sauce and sticky white rice. garnished with dressed mixed leaves and Japanese pickles.  The chicken itself was a little tough, which was disappointing considering how nice every other bit of meat that we had was.  The curry was bland and flavourless, I had to use a mountain of soy sauce just to give it a little bit of something, all in all, underwhelming.

The overall service was good and the staff were really friendly.  Nick's food and the sides came out really promptly, where as mine didn't! If like me you don't like being the last person to get your food, you have to prepare yourself for this to happen as it is all part of the wagamama experience!

Food *** Atmosphere **** Service *****

L x

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