The other day (I was in Zürich) I had a craving for Japanese food for lunch, so I went to my favorite reasonably priced Japanese restaurant...which, to my dismay, was closed for Easter holidays. Soo...since it was nearby, I went to the fairly new (opened last year) Wagamama.
I think I've been to Wagamama in London before, but must have buried the experience in my mind. I ordered a chicken katsu curry, and my lunchmate ordered a chicken ramen.
The chicken ramen was nothing like ramen. The soup was dashi based, which is all wrong, but beyond that, it was just bland and bad. The dashi didn't even taste right in any way. The noodles were just undercooked and bad.
But the ramen was nothing compared to the awfulness of the chicken katsu curry. I understand that they are trying for 'healthy' versions of Japanese favorites, but you just do not make a fake, oddly sweet, curry sauce that has so much cornstarch in it that it's sort of gelatinous and stays in intact, greyish, quivering lumps on your spoon. I was really starving, but I left more than half of it - I mostly had the plain rice, and the katsu bits (too salty, utterly flavorless chicken, but at least crispy) that I could scrape the sauce off of.
The so-called hijiki salad was not too bad. The duck 'gyoza' was so different from what gyoza should be, that they were perversely edible. Sort of like expecting to get Swedish meatballs at Ikea and being served chopped liver instead, if that makes sense. However, the idea that neophytes might think that was real gyoza is quite disturbing.
Anyway. I've gotten over my antipathy towards 'Asian Fusion' cooking, but I do at least want food to Taste Good. Not this plasticky fake crap. Wagamama restaurants look really great and all, but the best interior design in the world will not kill the bad aftertaste of g-awful food.
(Note, I ranted about this on Twitter - sorry if you follow me there and are hearing this again! But reallly it was that bad.)
So, I'm placing Wagamama firmly into my Fake Japanese/Asian Restaurant Hall of Shame. Unfortunately, there are other 'Asian' restaurants that belong there. What are your nominations? What to you makes a so-called Japanese or Asian restaurant just wrong?
(My other big Fake Asian Restaurant Hall of Shame member is Yo! Sushi. What's the deal with London and fake Japanese? Oy.)
(See also Loretta's comment here )
The Big Onigiri.
- Wherever you go, there you are. -