Before I start, I would like to say that as well as writing about chain restaurants, I will be talking about unique, quirky places too. This was the most recent meal out that I have had, and it was also on Valentine’s day so thought it would be an appropriate first post.
Location: Camden Town, London
Date visited: 14/02/2017
Wagamama is a chain Japanese restaurant found in the UK, which I am sure you have heard of before. Is my opinion even relevant? Will it stop you from going there with your friends and ordering a chicken katsu? Probably not, but I’m going to tell you what I think anyway.
I have visited the chain numerous times, I even have a usual order (who doesn’t?). However, my boyfriend had never been before, so we decided to take a visit on Valentine’s day after going to the cinema.
The location of the Camden restaurant is decent as it is very close to the station, located down a road opposite the market with multiple other restaurants on (which I am sure you will hear me write about in the future). For those of you unfamiliar with the chain, the tables are in long rows, a canteen-like vibe, so occasionally you may find yourself sitting next to a group of strangers. The food arrives whenever it is ready, rather than at the same time for each course, which has its benefits and drawbacks. Your food is NEVER cold, but there are cases, like when we went, where one person’s food arrives and they are practically finished before yours comes!
After a long debate over what my boyfriend should order, we had decided what to eat and waited anxiously for the food. The kitchen is open for all to see, and trust me, seeing the chefs cooking in the kitchen makes you salivate as the delicious aromas fill the restaurant. By the time your food arrives you’ve probably already imagined eating it about 3 times in your head.
What did I order, you may ask? My usual: Chilli Chicken Ramen with a extra side of Japanese Rice.
From personal experience I find that the chilli ramen has the most flavour, with a squeeze of the lime to balance out the chilli, it is a subtle blend of sour, salty and spicy. The amount of chicken you get is expected, about a chicken breast, and the bowl is laden with onions, chillies, bean sprouts, coriander and noodles. I do find, however, that the ramen does not always come with enough noodles and therefore the side of extra rice is a good touch. Adding rice to the ladle-spoon that you are given and dunking it into the soup creates a gorgeous sticky rice with the chilli flavour of the ramen.
I convinced by boyfriend to order the Chicken and Prawn Yaki Soba, which I personally had never had before, however I do remember seeing other people order it and it looking delicious. After having a good sampling of his dish myself, while I was anxiously lusting over the idea of MY food arriving, I came to the conclusion that it is a good dish. The noodles had a beautiful sesame flavour, very subtle which was appropriate for chicken and prawn. However, we both agreed that the addition of some chilli flakes and oil would complement the dish and give it that extra edge. Overall, it was a good plate of noodles, but it isn’t exactly something you can’t make at home.
We also ordered a cute little side dish, which I think for about £5 is expensive! A measly plate of a few pieces of fried squid was not adequate in my opinion. The sweet chilli sauce that came with it was tangy and fabulous with the squid, I just think for what we paid we should have got a bit more. Also seemed a bit unusual for our ‘starter’ to arrive when we were half way through our mains – but that is what we were told to expect when they seated us at our table. Unfortunately these weren’t around long enough for me to get a picture, but I think there is a picture on the menu if you do want to know what it looks like.
Is Wagamama anything special?
Not really. I am sure you can get better Japanese food in other places. Like many chain restaurants, it has a sort of place you go to as a safe bet vibe where you have a regular order that you are occasionally in the mood for on a Saturday night. I feel that it lacks a certain wow factor that you get from more quirky restaurants, but perhaps this is just due to the fact that it is a chain and therefore does not seem as unique.
Is Wagamama worth the money?
That’s up to you. One down side, for me, is that they do not offer discounts or deals, which, not going to lie, as a student I look for in places to eat. It seems ridiculous to me that I have to order an extra side of rice to make my food fill me up more, however I have seen that other orders from the restaurant do have larger portions. I do think that Wagamama is slightly overpriced but would 100% recommend going with someone who will pay for you, so that you can make the most of the menu.
All in all, it was a nice Valentine’s meal but could have been better. That’s all I have to say really.
Until next time,