The first Wagamama opened its doors in London in 1992 and in the twelve years since has expanded to open over 70 restaurants in the UK and 36 more in Europe, USA, Australia and The Middle East. Their reasonably priced fresh food in a sleek yet informal environment lends a diverse appeal. They are arguably the most popular chain of award-winning noodle restaurants in the UK. This worldwide chain offers a full menu of pan-Asian inspired dishes, but at its core wagamama is a noodle bar specializing in ramen noodle soups, cold noodle salads and hot noodle entrees. Boston is the lucky recipient of three wagamamas with locations Fanueil Hall, Harvard Square and the most recently opened location in the Back Bay's Prudential Center. Bloggers were invited to partake in a menu tasting featuring new kitchen creations and fun new cocktails! The meal tonight was free, however prices are noted to reflect the overall value. (Artsy photos expressing my new obsession with instagram are inserted just because.)Seated in long booths adorned with swag in the form of bright red wagamama tee shirts we were welcomed by the Director of Marketing, Nancy Barrett, who was on hand to briefly explain the new dishes and answer any questions we had. The reasonably priced and inventive cocktails - most of which are rum based, with a sake and a bourbon option thrown in the mix, served to impress. I started with a Mango Sekkai ($8.95) boasting sweet chunks of fresh mango muddled with bright notes of basil and lime blended with rum and soda water. I finished the evening with a Ringo Martini ($8.95) combining sour apple and honey bourbon liqueurs with fresh squeezed apple and lime, garnished with a slice of golden delicious apple.In between there were many appetizers including bowls of the addicting tender green soybeans known as Edamame ($3.95) and plates of both the Chicken Dumplings ($6.50) and Yasai Dumplings ($5.95) which are steamed, grilled and served alongside a chili garlic and soy dipping sauce. Fun Fact: 1,500 portions of edamame are eaten at wagamamas worldwide everyday.
Tempura battered and lightly fried, the squid in the Chili Calamari ($6.95) remains delightfully chewy seasoned with sea salt and shichimi (japanese chilli pepper). It was served with a sweet chili, garlic and cilantro dipping sauce.Succulent Suribachi Chicken Wings ($7.95) are tossed in a gently spicy sauce and dusted with red chili peppers and crunchy scallions.
Fall off the bone tender Pork Ribs ($8.95) are glazed with a sweet chili hoi sin sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Our first entree (everything was shared family style) was the new Lemongrass Shrimp Soba ($13.95) where perfectly grilled shrimp sat over a bed of soba noodles stir fried with minced cilantro, chiles, garlic and fresh beansprouts. The Beef Cha Han ($10.95) is shichimi-marinated beef in a bowl of stir fried rice with snow peas, carrots and leeks. Nancy told us wagamama's most popular entree is the Chicken Katsu Curry ($11.25). Chicken breasts are coated in panko breadcrumbs, deep fried, then sliced and plated under sticky rice and bathed in their famous light curry sauce. This entree comes with a side salad tossed in house dressing. Speaking of salads, the Marinated Yasai Noodle Salad ($8.75) is loaded with vegetables including marinated grilled eggplant, mushroom and zucchini combined with carmelized red onion, roasted sweet potato, asparagus, diced tomato and mixed greens. Whole wheat noodles serve as the base and pickled red ginger and sesame seeds the garnish.
The Seafood Ramen ($12.75) bathes noodles in a wakame and spinach filled vegetable broth. The soup is then topped with grilled shrimp, salmon, swordfish and marinated calamari, garnished with menma and scallions.Fun Fact: Twelve tons of noodles are served at wagamamas worldwide each week! After feeling sufficiently stuffed from a serious round of entrees, we were offered dessert. The options ranged from good, to great, to knock your socks off amazing. The Creme Brulee Cheesecake ($5.95) was good with a rich vanilla flavor and biscuit base, but a little to heavy for me after such a filling meal! The moist Chocolate Cake ($5.95) with a chocolate fudge frosting and vanilla ice cream was a pretty great slice of cake. But nothing could top the unexpectedly amazing Coconut Reika ($4.95) which was a refreshing three scoops of coconut ice cream drizzled in a tangy mango sauce and topped with toasted coconut. Wagamama's success is greatly attributed to their mission which is to combine great, fresh and nutritious food in an elegant yet simple setting with helpful friendly service and value for money. Welcoming another "positive living + positive eating" chain in the heart of Boston, the Wagamama located at 800 Boylston Street inside the Prudential Center is sure to please old fans and newcomers alike!