For a real forbidden — albeit trans-fat free — treat, try the yasai katsu curry ($9.50), a platter of breaded and deep-fried slices of sweet potato, winter squash, and eggplant with a brown curry sauce ($1.50 as an add-on to other dishes) that packs a little heat and a lot of flavor. With it comes a mound of medium-grain sticky rice and a small salad.
If you’re in the market for Asian-style fish salad ($10.95), I would suggest you go to a real Thai restaurant, since this shredded salad is small, even with a grilled barramundi (an Australian river fish now farmed in the UK and US) filet. Besides, the coconut-chili-cilantro dressing is nice but needs the sour richness of fish sauce.
Wagamama has a small, plausible wine list, but this is beer food. I’d go with the Asahi Super Dry ($4.50/12 ounces; $6.95/22 ounces), a clean, sharp lager from Japan. A bottle of Tiger Beer ($4.50), out of Malaysia but partially owned by Heineken, also was fresh and clean, with hoppy and flowery notes in the nose. Green tea (free) is light and thin, and very drinkable on cold nights.
For a place with rapid-fire table turnover, Wagamama has desserts that make you want to linger. Citrus lime mousse ($4.95) tastes like fake Key-lime pie, and has a nice toasted-coconut overlay. Stem-ginger cheesecake ($5.50) is British Chinoiserie: cheesecake on a gingerbread-cookie base with a fresh ginger flavor. This could spread.
Service, despite the confusing concept, is friendly and lightning fast. If you’re a talker, you may have to defend your dinner from several attempts to take it away. The room is bright and full of long, bamboo-colored tables, each seating many pairs or three groups of four, or sometimes six squeezing in for a picnic-table effect. The crowd is young, quick, and out for fun — sort of like the food.
Think of it as a restaurant for speed-dating. You wouldn’t try to have a serious conversation here, and you shouldn’t expect to eat a serious meal, or make Wagamama food a part of your regular diet. But for a quick meal that covers the food groups with a few twists, Wagamama delivers and amuses.
Email the author
Robert Nadeau: RobtNadeau@aol.com