I remember back when we were in London, S and I saw ads for a restaurant called Wagamama quite frequently. We became curious but didn’t get around to dining there since we had other places we wanted to try. Imagine my surprise when I spotted Wagamama here in Welly while looking for a completely different restaurant on Google Maps! I immediately thought ‘Here’s our chance to give the place a go’, and yet it took us several weeks before we actually visited the place.
It wasn’t until we were on our way to Armageddon at the Westpac Stadium when we finally had lunch at Wagamama in Customhouse Quay. It’s located far from home, but with Wellington being such a walkable city, it’s not too bad even if we don’t have a car.
I loved the big, open space inside the restaurant and that we could see what was happening in the kitchen as the chefs prepared the meals. It was perfect for people like me who don’t dig cramped, crowded areas. There were several long, communal tables for bigger groups.
Another thing I liked were the huge glass windows which let you see the harbour from where you’re seated. It’s a great way to enjoy the view, minus the cold wind this winter season. I was so amused when a huge cargo ship pulled out from the dock and sailed into the harbor. I’m not even a big fan of ships or boats, but it was a nice thing to watch while waiting for our food to arrive.
We’ve had mushroom tempura before at a Japanese restaurant in Manila. We liked them a lot that we jumped at the chance to order something similar when we saw the stuffed tempura mushrooms (NZ$10.00) on Wagamama’s menu. These were supposed to be shiitake mushrooms stuffed with prawns and garlic. Honestly, we didn’t detect the prawns inside and simply thought that they were just mushrooms coated in batter.
I’m not complaining about that batter though. If you’ve ever been to Manila and have tried eating qwek qwek (hard boiled quail eggs coated in orange batter) from street vendors, you’d understand why this appealed to me. That crispy batter was so unhealthy but definitely hit all the right spots. S didn’t think it was anything special, but I ended up liking them.
I’ve heard people rave about Wagamama’s chahan donburi (NZ$17.00) so I decided to order that one for myself. There were two types available and I went for the yasai, which had tofu and mixed vegetables. I found this dish enjoyable and even shared it with S, who liked it as well. Soy sauce was the prominent flavor, but it didn’t overpower everything else in the bowl. If I would change anything, it’s just to have more tofu cubes and vegetables to bulk it up a bit more. The side of pickled radish was a nice touch.
While we found the chahan flavoursome, S’ Wagamama Ramen (NZ$22.00) was the complete opposite. It was a real downer for something that was supposed to have miso broth. The soup was very bland, almost like water. There were a lot of toppings, but I guess it’s only proper since one bowl costs almost twice the ones we get from other Asian restaurants. We won’t be recommending this dish to anyone, especially if you’re hankering for ramen.
By the end of our meal, S and I weren’t sure if Wagamama is a place we’d like to revisit. The Wagamama ramen really was a disaster. It alone made us think twice about the place. Their dishes were likely made to suit the Western palate, so the flavors weren’t as bold as the ones you’d get from Asian restaurants. If we go back, it’s just to see if the other stuff are good. It’s definitely not the place we’d go to if we want excellent Japanese food. There are a whole lot of other cheaper and better places for that.