I was lucky enough to discover Wagamama’s way back in 2004 while on a visit to Dublin. I was so enamoured with this new oriental-style dining (and therefore refused to shut up about it) that I was given the Wagamama cookbook for my birthday that year. I have never attempted anything from the book as the list of ingredients required for each recipe baffles me but it has never stopped me wanting to.
Since then however I have heard very little about Wagamama’s. I began to think I had imagined the amazing culinary experience I had had in Dublin all those years ago. Until a couple of months ago when a Wagamama seemed to pop up all of a sudden in Edinburgh… and then in Livingston. (To be fair, they could have been there for the last year and I had just been oblivious to them!)
Because I’ve been suffering from a stinking cold lately which has rendered my tastebuds more or less useless, me and my other half decided that Wagamama’s might be a good bet for a post-payday lunch yesterday. After all, they’re bound to have something spicy enough to cut through a blocked nose! After deciphering the menu, I was finally able to confirm that I had not imagined my experiences in Wagamama in Dublin.
I was first intrigued by the apple juice that I had ordered. It was cloudier than I have ever seen an apple juice and was disconcertingly warm when I put the glass to my lips. The taste however exceeded every expectation I had of the tepid, cloudy looking beverage. Not only could I taste fresh apple, I could taste the skins, the flesh and the juice individually. Here was a glass filled with what seemed to be a whole crushed apple – I was so gobsmacked I had to get my other half to try it to make sure my cold hadn’t completely screwed up my palate. He confirmed my joy!
Getting back to the reason why we were in the restaurant, I ordered kare lomen with prawns (noodles in a spicy coconut soup with prawns) while my beardy dining partner (he’s finishing his PhD thesis and is not shaving until it’s handed in!) chose teriyaki chicken donburi (chicken glazed with teriyaki sauce served with sticky rice). We also ordered a side of duck gyoza (deep fried duck dumplings) which conveniently arrived first.
The food followed on exactly as the apple juice had left off – with an unrivalled freshness. My prawns were garnished with fresh coriander, bean sprouts and cucumber which all helped to calm the punchy spiciness of the coconut and lemongrass soup beneath them. The teriyaki chicken came with carrots, pea shoots and spring onions which all tasted as if they’d been lifted from my grandmother-in-law’s garden that morning! We were definitely not going to be lacking in our 5-a-day.
Unfortunately, we were both unable to clear our plates. Not because of any problems with the food but simply because we had both been attempting to eat with chopsticks and by the time we were three quarters of the way through our dishes, we had actually had enough to eat. Instead of forcing an entire portion of food down our necks – as is customary at many UK fast food restaurants – we had been obliged to take our time and savour what we were eating.
I’m not a fan of typical americanised fast food restaurants like McDonalds, even as a guilty pleasure. Wagamama however has fast food down to a tee. The food is freshly picked – but perhaps not from my grandmother-in-law’s garden – and freshly cooked – each dish is brought out as it’s cooked so that everyone at the table ends up getting theirs at different times. I probably still won’t try anything out of the Wagamama cookbook but now at least I can go back to restaurant itself whenever I get a craving!