With branches of this notorious noodle place already in as faraway places as Australia, New Zealand and even Dubai, Wagamama continues to be a popular Japanese favourite and this branch is no different.
Located on Hill Street in Richmond this place benefits from being in the centre of town and only a stones throw away from the Thames. As with any of these chains the layout is both simple and minimalist and inspired from the ramen type bars that have been popular in Japan for centuries. With school-like canteen benches, industrial floors and seats harking back to the days of Grange Hill it’s certainly not an architectural masterpiece yet the murals towards the back depicting eating scenes are a good touch that sets the scene for what awaits.
There’s a good relaxed feel to this Wagamama with locals mixing in well with people coming from neighboring areas including Barnes and Putney. There always seems to be a gentle chatter no matter where you sit. You can guarantee super efficient service from the staff that will start to graffiti your desks with orders as soon as you have managed to draw breath.
For a small dish try the ebi katsu coming in at around £6. These are deep-fried black tiger prawns coated in crispy panko breadcrumbs and finished with a piquant red chilli and garlic sauce. The lime garnish provides that extra zest which cuts through the prawns. The tori kara age at around £4 is a steal. Deep-fried pieces of chicken are carefully prepared and marinated with soy sauce, sake, mirin, dried oregano, thyme and fresh ginger before being served with a chilli, garlic, sesame and soy sauce. With lots of flavours going on you would think this would confuse your palate yet every flavour hits individually and reveals the numerous layers that make up this complex dish.
For mains sample chicken kare lomen which at under £9 is a giveaway. This dish contains noodles swimming happily in a coconut based soup made of lemongrass, coconut milk, shrimp paste, red chillies, slices of fresh ginger and galangal and finished with a tenderly grilled marinated chicken breast and beansprouts, cucumber, fresh coriander and a wedge of lime. The many flavours work harmoniously together for the most part, though at points you won’t recognize some of the ingredients which do slip by your tongue. The yaki udon is a teppan dish cooked on a hot griddle and has teppan-fried thin noodles with a spicy curry oil, shiitake mushrooms, egg, leeks, fleshy prawns, chicken, grilled salmon fishcake, beansprouts and green and red peppers. This is all rounded off with a powerful ground fish powder, an array of mixed sesame seeds, crispy fried shallots and pickled ginger.
For dessert sample an interesting tamarind and chilli pavlova, a sweet but subtle pavlova with hints of chilli with a crunchy meringue base accompanied by a sweet raspberry and tamarind sauce which is on the sickly side. The white chocolate and ginger cheesecake is creamy and uses some fresh stem ginger and is served with a delicate chilli toffee ginger sauce which provides a real kick just at the end.
As an alternative to wine, try the plum wines and sakes on offer featuring takara shochikubai, which is medium sweet with a well balanced flavour and served hot, or takara baisho-zukuri, a refreshing Japanese premium sake. There’s also a cool elderflower drink and a sweet peach iced tea.
The Last Word
Wagamama continues to expand yet some well executed dishes are let down by the complexity of flavours that simply miss the mark. Less is more is definitely the order of the day.