GLENN – Wagamama has been named “London’s most popular restaurant” multiple times by the Zagat Survey. Founded in 1992 utilizing the model of a Japanese ramen shop, the chain of restaurants was an immediate hit in London town. Several years ago, when the corporation decided to expand across the pond to Boston, there was a lot of buzz in the Boston food press about the invasion of this British fave. I took in the buzz, but didn’t go to the newly opened restaurant which set up shop in Fanueil Hall. Frankly – and pardon my peccadilloes – why would I want to dine with a mess of tourists and conventioneers? Though additional restos opened in Harvard Square and the Prudential Center, Wagamama had fallen off the map for me. Back to the present. The chain’s expansion, stalled by the recession in the US, is again moving forward. With a revised menu and looking to generate some buzz, the restaurant hosted a dinner for Boston Food Bloggers at the Prudential Center location and we of Wine Dine With Us were there.
KATRIN – The restaurant’s location in the Prudential Center’s “Fashion Court” is a bit amusing. Sure, it has an Asian hippness to it, but with a view of the Olympia Sports store across the hall, you can’t escape knowing that you are in an American shopping mall. The set-up is both functional and efficient with long tables and benches designed to accommodate both large groups and multiple smaller parties, like a modern version of Durgin Park.
GLENN – The bloggers dinner turned into a full-blown banquet – we were presented with six “starters,” four “mains,” a ramen noodle bowl, and finally the house signature salad. We were generously served multiple plates of each. As befitting a noodle shop, there were – pardon me – oodles of noodles. I had three dishes I would certainly endorse: the Wagamama glazed ribs – meltingly tender ribs tossed with a sweet chili hoi sin sauce; the teriyaki salmon soba – grilled salmon, perfectly cooked, lightly lacquered with teriyaki and served over teppan-fried wheat noodles; and the yasai (vegetarian) noodle salad – a riot of seven vegetables plus greens, tossed with whole wheat noodles.
KATRIN – The seemingly endless stream of dishes emerging from the open kitchen was nearly overwhelming, offering varying tastes, textures, and temperatures. At the end, I gave up trying to tell the different noodle dishes apart. By far the teriyaki salmon soba was my favorite dish. After enjoying the spiciness of the suribachi chicken wings and savory ribs, the beef cha han came off as flat and flavorless. Overall, the many menu options, good prices, and service that appeared to be efficient, but not rushing, Wagamama offers value driven meals that will please a range of palates.
GLENN – Though Wagamama Pru doesn’t have a full liquor license, they just debuted a cocktail menu building on the beer, wine and cordial license they do have. Drinks incorporate freshly squeezed juices, muddled fresh fruit or both. I found three of the six offerings outstanding – Jinja-Nashi – rum liqueur, fresh ginger root, lime, mint, and Asian pear juice; Ringo Martini – sour apple and honey bourbon liqueurs with apple juice and lime; and the stellar and crowd favorite at our table, Kyuuri Martini – cucumber muddled with rum, lime, and ginger. I tried in vain to get the recipe for this delicious libation, but corporate confidentiality requirements prohibited the staff from revealing its exact nature. I will attempt to recreate this one at home.
KATRIN – If I were at a regular bar, ordering a pre-dinner cocktail, I would have shrugged off any of the cocktails that we sampled as too sweet and tootie fruity for my taste. However, they really complemented the dishes we had and the fresh ingredients from the juice bar made them quite enjoyable. And I certainly plan to order the Kyuuri Martini on a future visit. Many thanks to our hostess Nancy Barrett, Wagamama’s Director of Marketing, the restaurant’s accommodating and fleet-footed manager and the rest of the staff. And finally, a great big thanks to Rachel Blumenthal for organizing yet another fantastic gathering of Boston food bloggers!
Fanueil Hall Marketplace, Quincy Market Building, Boston
Prudential Center, 800 Boylston Street, Boston
Harvard Square, 57 JFK Street, Cambridge
*Take out, delivery and catering available*