Wagamama is a ramen bar inspired chain that originates from the UK. It is wildly popular in Great Britain, and has now made its way across the "pond" to the US. Currently, the only two locations in the US are at Faneuil Hall and in Harvard Square.
Wagamama's philosophy is encapsulated in its logo, "positive eating, positive living," a phrase for which it actually holds a registered trademark. On top of various Japanese entrees, such as ramen, udon, chili noodles, curry rice dishes, and salads, Wagamama also has other "positive eating" options, such as fresh vegetable and fruit juices, salads, and appetizers, such as edamame and gyoza.
Bryan and I decided to check out the Wagamama in Harvard Square tonight. The seating arrangement in the restaurant is unique and similar across all Wagamamas. Long rows of tables and benches line the restaurant - you may very well be seated next to someone you don't know. If you've been to High Rise Bakery Cafe on Concord Ave in Cambridge, you know what I'm talking about. Anyway, we were seated immediately and a waitress came within a short time to take our order. They take all of their orders on electronic devices that send the order directly to the kitchen. They say that the food may come out at random times and not necessarily together, since everything is made to order and they serve it fresh to you the moment it's ready. (Bryan thinks that's a lame excuse since food is cooked to order at most restaurants)
Bryan ordered the chili beef ramen ($14.95) which was a big bowl of a fragrant soup (not really that spicy) with sirloin steak, lime, cilantro, fresh chilies, scallions, red onions, and bean sprouts. I ordered the ata-taka chicken salad ($9.95), which, despite its name, is actually chicken strips marinated with cumin, chili, cilantro, soy sauce, garlic, and lime juice sauteed with bean sprouts, red onion, and a sweet ginger sauce. The stir-fry was placed over a bed of baby spinach lightly dressed with Wagamama's house dressing.
Over all, we thought food was pretty good, but pricey for what you get. Bryan thought his noodle soup was OK, but said he would not come back. Le's (formerly known as Pho Pasteur) is just down the street and serves up hot piping bowls of Vietnamese pho and other noodles soups. Not only does Bryan like the noodle soup at Le's better, it only costs $5.95 for an equally large bowl. I personally liked how his noodle soup was very fragrant (many herbs or spices or something) yet not very salty at all. It reminded me of spa food.
I enjoyed my dish quite a lot. I liked how it was not very greasy at all and also not too salty. It was a small enough portion that I was able to finish the entire dish without feeling grossly full afterwards. The flavors were nice, and I felt satisfied in a healthy way after I had finished my meal. Over all, the food at Wagamama definitely seems healthy, very much in line with their motto. I was quite impressed with how they managed to make my chicken strips tasty yet very low salt at the same time.
The ambiance is trendy and chic, which may explain why they are able to charge higher prices for something as simple as ramen (which really does not cost a lot to make!). Over all, I think I liked the place more than Bryan did. For me, it fit a set of strict criteria that is hard for any restaurant to meet: close to home, not too expensive (on a absolute scale), healthy (the hardest criteria to meet), and yummy.
If you're in the area and are in the mood for some interesting healthy Asian (mostly Japanese) inspired spa-like food, check out Wagamama's and be prepared to spend around $10-$15 for your dish. Enjoy!
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