Today was manic. It’s that time when everything suddenly has to be done and dusted quite soon and I was wide awake at a bit before 6am and ready to take on the day. Luckily, my friends know that I need a break too and this trip to Wagamama that @Edinburghfoody organised was the perfect way to help keep me sane.
As previously suggested, I arrived early so that I could join the queue, but at ten to twelve there wasn’t one. I was quickly seated at a table around the corner, away from the doorway. I was offered a drink and ordered a cup of tea, which came in a stylish wee silk bag (inside the packet) and was quite good. After everyone arrived, there was much catching up and then we got down to the important business of ordering food.
I was in the mood for something fresh and light, and so ordered the seared steak with caramelised red onions, beansprouts, red peppers, cucumber, carrot, mooli, ginger and coriander tossed with mixed leaves and wagamama house dressing, garnished with sesame seeds. And I got a side of salted edamame (the options were salt or chili garlic) for all of us. We all ordered differently, and the dishes arrived as they were prepared.
I’m used to this happening at Asian style restaurants. I tend to think it makes for the freshest food served directly to the customer, and even though I had to wait while two of us got our food, it was totally worth it. My salad arrived piled high and fresh and was sheer perfection. The dressing was light and gingery without being overpowering. The mix of (warm) steak and vegetables was nice and I was thoroughly pleased to have finally found a place where I can go and order a salad that will be served to me like the ones from home.
That being said, I had to try a chili from Danielle’s special seasonal menu dish: firecracker prawns, and it was hot. Luckily, I tasted a bit of mange tout before I ate the whole chili and it was subtly sweet with that after kick of chili that is just right as it heats the back of your throat.
The setting itself is interesting. We were some of the lucky ones who had a table to ourselves. Mostly, the restaurant is set up with long communal tables in the main area with booths lining the large glass frontage onto Lothian Road. The service was good, odd due to the fact that I wasn’t quite sure who our server was, since one person took my drink order and another took our food orders and then each dish seemed to be delivered by a new, cheery face. I should state this: this style of service fits the style of the restaurant and is not a bad thing; it reminded me of efficient, swift American-style service. And after we were finished, they did not try to run us out (even though the queue was well out the door), nor did they ignore us.
Overall, I like this place. I would also like to think that I may well try something different and interesting next time I go, because the other dishes looked tasty, but if I’m absolutely honest, I won’t. I’ll go again and again to get that salad. I may even start to develop cravings…
The West End seems all abuzz, at the moment, with talk of the arrival of Wagamama in Edinburgh. Twitter has been all aflutter, too. So what’s all the fuss about?
Well, Wagamama is a well-established chain of noodle bars. It specialises in long tables for communal eating, and straight-to-table service when the kitchen has prepared your food, meaning a sequential, staggered dining experience, rather than the usual, “are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin,” approach. I popped in to the Glasgow branch, a couple of years ago, and spent a very happy lunchtime playing with a big plate of noodles, while passers-by gazed on in awe.
Today, upon arrival I ran in to the delightful Katey from Edinburgh Eats, and a waving table featuring Edinburgh Foody’s Danielle and Lunch Quest’s very own MJ. What a merry little collection of Total Food Geeks! We were seated in the area of the restaurant that features more conventional four-person tables, rather than at one of the communal benches.
As we contemplated the menu, we were swiftly asked for drinks orders. The service isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, and you get the feeling that they’re still a little tentative in navigating their way around the stylish new surroundings, but orders were taken accurately, delivered swiftly, and smiling and helpfulness abounded.
I chose an apple and lime juice, which proved very tasty, although didn’t have the most eye-catching hue.
We had two menus to consider: their standard, extensive range; and a smaller menu of seasonal specials. I choose the mint and lemongrass chicken soba from the specials, and Danielle and I decided to split a portion of gyoza (chicken and vegetable dumplings).
My noodle dish was of the express variety, and arrived a little ahead of the others. I tucked in, as a succession of plates arrived, concluding with our dumplings.
Now, you know that I have a little tendency to chase noodles round the plate, rather than actually eat them, but with this dish I was on pretty good munching form. To begin with, the aromatic flavour of the mint met my nostrils and instantly made friends. The adjective for the chicken was “chunky” rather than “succulent” but the dish was a lovely marriage of subtle flavours, underpinned by gentle chilli whispers. I’d say this will be a real winner with diners as a winter warmer, over the coming months.
Our dumplings were pretty good. They weren’t particularly remarkable, but they were a little better than some I’ve sampled.
Overall, I was pleased with Wagamama. It’s fresh, slick, and a good addition to the range of West End restaurants. You won’t catch me breaking my neck or queuing for an hour for a table, though. Other noodle bars are available, for example Hongfu, and I have a feeling you’ll find them more than happy to accommodate you and serve you dishes of equal or better quality.
MJ scores Wagamama
4.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
3/5 for setting
3/5 for service
giving an overall 13.5/20
Blythe scores Wagamama
4/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
3/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 14/20
Today’s Lunch Questers were: Miriam, Danielle, Katey, Blythe
We ate: firecracker prawns, lemongrass and mint chicken soba, mandarin and sesame chicken salad, ginger beef and coriander salad, chilli squid, gyoza, edamame
We drank: juices, water
We wore: an artistically crushed blue jumper, less artistically ironed working garments (3)
Total bill: c.£65 (picked up by the restaurant)