In a market where chain restaurants can be hit-or-miss, Wagamama seems to have carved out a niche for itself. What it lacks in authenticity it makes up for in consistency, as Nishad Padiyarath discovers.
Because sometimes in life it’s okay to succumb to our cravings, as the heart wants what the stomach wants – and tonight, mine was craving a fix from Wagamama. This popular U.K. import with the name that rolls off your tonight (Japanese for ‘naughty child’ incidentally) opened its first outlet in Al Qurum in December of last year, bringing its signature ramen bowls and famous katsu curry to Muscat foodies.
Heading into the restaurant on a Sunday night for the dinner-time rush we were happily greeted by the wait-staff who led us to our table. The interior décor hits the brief of the franchise, while the seating area is relaxed and comfortable – bucking the current trend of Muscat eateries that try to pack in tables to fit in more diners. Wagamama is spacious with a lot of breathing space.
For first-time visitors, the menu is vast and can be quite confusing – a pit-fall of the larger chains who try to cater across a variety of what end up (most of the time) being rather generic tastes. Wagamama however, edges out its big-box competitors by delivering on consistency with its offerings.
From the long list of menu items, our eyes settle upon the Girata Steamed Buns as starter along with the Firecracker Prawns, and for our mains the Thai Green Kare with chicken, and that icon of Wagamama’s worldwide – the Katsu Chicken Curry. The buns arrived piping hot and plump with chicken, coriander, and mayonnaise – filling and moreish.
The Firecracker Prawns are a fiery mix of mangetout, red and green peppers, onions, and hot red chillies, served with a side of steamed rice, sesame seeds, shichimi and fresh greens. Packing a punch on the heat scale without skimping out on flavour, it lived up to its name.
However, we can’t say the same about the Thai Gree Kare. Prepared with coconut milk, Thai green curry paste, and lemon and basil leaf, the thickness and flavour of the coconut milk overwhelmed the palate – masking what was already a lacklustre curry paste. In this case, we feel Wagamama would do well to stick to the Japanese cuisine it carries out with gusto.
As for the main contender, the Katsu Chicken Curry, it came coated in crispy panko breadcrumbs, and smothered in an aromatic Japanese curry sauce served with sticky rice and a side salad with a gingery soy-miso dressing. To wash it all down we ordered their ‘Super Green’ juice. A mixture of apple, mint, and lime we should have sent it back as it was overly-sweetened.
With more hits and a few misses, Wagamama generally ticks the boxes when it comes to consistently flavourful fare that you don’t always get with a franchise chain. We’ll definitely be back to give it another go, chopsticks at the ready.
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