Wagamama: The taste of Asia yet no sight of Asians

August 12th, 2010  |  Published in Food  |  8 intelligent opinions  |  Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Have you ever been to Wagamama? What did you think of the food? Good? Bad? Did you notice anything about the other patrons in the restaurant? Hmmm…

We know that an Asian place is only good if other Asians are eating there. If an Asian joint has more white than Asian folk eating there, alarm bells should be ringing and you know there’s something iffy. This is exactly the scene at Wagamama.

Wagamama is a restaurant chain that serves pan-Asian food in the style of a modern Japanese kitchen.

I ate at Wagamama (The Galeries Victoria, Sydney, pictured below) about five years ago when it first opened. I found the food extremely underwhelming and the communal seating a big turn off. I haven’t been there since… until last week.

Wagamama, Galleries Victoria Sydney, entrance

For some silly reason, Maggie and I decided to try Wagamama again. The restaurant is moderately full (albeit with Western clientele) and it has survived for so many years, so surely our first impressions were wrong?

Wagamama, Galleries Victoria Sydney, restaurant

We were greeted by friendly British-accented staff (presumably backpackers). A quick glance at the menu and we settled on the Perfect Match special: a gyoza side and a main meal for only $19.90.

Duck gyoza – a deeply unsettling dish

Duck = delicious
Gyoza = delicious
Duck + Gyoza + Wagamama = horrible!

Gyoza is typically made with a thin and soft skin and pan-fried. The ones at Wagamama were rock hard, deep-fried and served with a strange hoisin sauce that was grainy and bitter.

$11.80 for those three unpleasant dumplings? You gotta be kidding!

Wagamama, Galleries Victoria Sydney, duck gyoza

Chicken katsu curry – a generous serving to match the price

Fortunately, the chicken katsu curry (pictured below) was half-decent. The crumbing was nice and crispy, and the serving was generous – well it ought to be for $19.40 a plate!

So two thumbs up? Errr no… maybe just one. The rice wasn’t very Japanese (it should be more glutinous) and the curry reminded us of the KFC mash potato gravy.

Oh dear. Don’t people know there is cheaper and far better Japanese food from Ichiban Boshi upstairs?

Wagamama, Galleries Victoria Sydney, Chicken katsu curry

Wagamama: a pricey and underwhelming experience

Our verdict? On the food we were disappointed (again), however the service was wonderful! All my annoying questions – ‘What is the dipping sauce?!’, ‘What is this dark pink thing in my salad?’ – were answered with a smile.

I also made a point of counting the number of Asians in the restaurant, we were sorely beaten – a mere 4 out of 28 patrons *alarm bells*. Oh wait. The kitchen was staffed with almost all Asians, but they don’t count…

So where are the Asians? I can only surmise that we are far too smart to be eating at Wagamama.

*Wagamama is located around the world. Within Australia, there are outlets in Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and of course, Sydney. But it’s not as though I’m recommending it.

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8 opinions. Join the discussion ↓

12:06 pm on 08.12.10

I friggin’ love Ichiban! The katsu curry is so delicious there and it’s a lot cheaper than $19.40! The serving is also at least twice the portion of Wagamama’s in the photo. Golly.

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12:23 pm on 08.12.10

Why don’t the kitchen staff count???

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1:05 pm on 08.12.10

Clearly the kitchen staff don’t count because they’re not diners. The article is referring to paying customers.

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1:59 pm on 08.12.10

Oh definitely not going to Wagamama again! A friend and I tried it out in Chadstone, Melbourne here and we were absolutely gobsmacked by the small portions in comparison for the prices we were paying. They weren’t even delicious to finish off with, and we left swearing we would never go back again. After reading this post, I’m certain Wagamama is consistent in ONE thing: lacklustre food. And yes, the lack of Asians in an Asian eatery is always an indication to stay away, haha.

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5:38 pm on 08.12.10

maybe thats why the asians don’t go there.. because asians know GOOD FOOD!

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Eurasian Sensation
3:22 pm on 08.18.10

I agree. I have eaten only once in Wagamama, and while I won’t say it was horrible, it didn’t get more than a “meh” from me.
And at the prices they charge, you want more than just “meh”.

And who in their right mind deep-fries a gyoza?

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12:52 pm on 08.30.10

Agreed that it tastes bad but its definitely not targeted at Asians given Wagamama is headquarter in the UK albeit started by British-Chinese guy.

Source: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Wagamama

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maruja de lujo
5:05 pm on 10.26.10

I’ve been to Wagamama once, in the UK, and compared with all the other “Asian fusion” food I’ve had in the UK and Spain, it was pretty good.
That may tell you something about the quality of so-called Asian food in Europe. I diplomatically say that Asian food in Europe is strongly “internationalised” to the tastes of the locals, who love it that way. Dave is right: it’s definitely not targeted at Asians who want Asian food.

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