On Saturday night, I tried out Wagamama for the first time. Dave is a big fan of Japanese food and had been wanting to try it for some time. Japanese food is quite honestly not my favorite (I know, this is unusual). There are only a few items that I really like, but I am always curious to try new places.
From what I had heard about Wagamama, I expected that you would order at the counter and take your food to your table. It turns out Wagamama has table service, but a very casual one at that. A server came by to ask for our drink orders and immediately started scribbling on our paper placemats. That is apparently how they keep track of orders. We started out with green tea, which comes complimentary. It was real green tea, made with loose tea leaves and served in attractive painted cups.
Dave ordered the absolute wagamama which comes with your choice of chicken ramen, or pan-fried noodles, along with three chicken dumplings and a small beer or fresh juice. The combo, at $14 is a great value. The entrees alone are enormous and cost around $10 to $11. For an extra few dollars, you get both a small appetizer and a beverage.
The dumplings were pan-fried and served with a spicy chili, garlic and soy dipping sauce. The dipping sauce really added a lot of flavor to the dumplings, which were tender with a nice crispy outside. A small but satisfying appetizer, especially considering the size of the entree.
The bowl of chicken ramen was enormous, with a heaping pile of noodles, sliced grilled chicken breast, baby spinach, and menma, which are simmered bamboo shoots, in a steaming chicken broth. I was very amused that they give you a ladle to aid in your slurping. Dave thoroughly enjoyed his ramen, which had a varied and satisfying mix of textures and flavors. The chicken was tender, the noodles were cooked perfectly and all of the ingredients tasted extremely fresh. He did wish that the broth were flavored a little more strongly. When it came time to slurp up the last of the contents, it tasted like a generic chicken soup rather than distinctly of ramen.
I ordered the yasai yaki soba which was teppan-fried whole wheat noodles with egg, button and shiitake mushrooms, butternut squash, bean sprouts, peppers, red onion, scallions, and garlic, garnished with sesame seeds, fried shallots, pickled red ginger and cilantro vinegar. I am not fond of shitake mushrooms and I never seem to like any mushrooms in Asian food. This dish tasted exceedingly mushroom-y and a tad bland. I would have preferred a little more acid, salt, or spice. I did very much enjoy the pickled ginger and sesame seeds on top. Dave happened to love this dish. I do wish that the vegetables were in bigger chunks and not minuscule shavings. This might be par for the course for Japanese food, but I prefer noodle dishes to have large discernible chunks of vegetables.
Service was interesting, but not in a bad way. All of the waiters appeared to be college students or just out of college, not surprising for a restaurant right in Harvard Square. Some of them were a tad aloof, but I was very happy with one of our servers in particular. Dave received his ramen very quickly after ordering. After a few minutes had passed and my meal still had not come, he remarked that the menu states that they bring the dishes out as they are ready so that you receive your dish freshly cooked. A server came over though when she noticed my empty place mat and said that she would check on mine. She came back shortly after with my dish and explained that the dish is very popular and the kitchen has received a slew of orders for it. I was not ravenous, so I did not mind the wait, but I was very pleased with the attention from our server. Though the cuisine is not quite my cup of tea, I would definitely recommend Wagamama to anyone who does like Japanese food.