The first time I went to Wagamama was in London, more years ago than I care to remember. I loved it. I loved the buzz of the long tables, the high ceilings of the cellar space we were in, the speed of service, the fact that our order was written on the paper place settings, and the food. The menu dazzled me with ingredients and dishes I hadn’t had before (my early culinary life was firmly focussed on the Mediterranean) and felt wonderfully healthy.
The years passed and some of the glamour has worn off, but only because I’ve been to Wagamama so many times. I’ve been to Waga in London (a couple of city locations and T5), Glasgow and Manchester. I’ve been in summer and winter, in sun and snow. I have the cookbook, I’ve tried the sauces*. Wagamama is a favourite. If I had to get rid off all chain restaurants but one, this is the one I would save. (Sorry, Yo! Sushi. I still love you but not as much as I love Waga.) So it is great that one may be coming to Edinburgh.
That’s what the rumours say, anyway. I also have it first hand from staff at Wagamama in Livingston. That’s my closest Wagamama. Livingston isn’t a place I go to if I can avoid it, but once a quarter a craving for raw salad, yasai gyoza, edamame and carrot juice drives me there.
Wagamama in Livingston is on a strip of new mall developments which, as I remember it, was a car park not that long ago. It is one of several restaurants in a row: it has Nando’s on one side and Chiquito’s on the other. Nando’s is always busy, Wagamama isn’t.
This surprises me. The food is fresh and good, the service friendly and efficient. The pricing is decent but this restaurant is never busy. It is the only Waga I’ve ever seen that you don’t have to queue for. The fact that Nando’s always busy might indicate that residents of Livingston prefer grilled chicken to noodles and dumplings. They’re missing out.
At Waga you pick what you want and you get it when it is ready. A typical choice for me is edamame, gyoza and a noodle dish but I often try something new from the specials menu. The chilli squid is tasty and a lot more filling than you think it will be, the sama salad is an interesting Italian/Asian fusion of tomatoes, avocado, artichokes and crunchy noodles. The itame is a deeply comforting (and huge) dish of rice noodles in a green curry coconut sauce. I’ve never had the chicken katsu curry (a chicken fillet on sticky rice with curry sauce) because it doesn’t look so great but I have a friend that will eat nothing else. One thing never changes: I always have a large raw juice. Carrot juice with a hint of ginger. It is fab.
I cannot wait for Wagamama to come to Edinburgh. Of course, when it does, I will no longer go to the one in Livingston and it will be even quieter. It’s a shame.
* I didn’t like the sauces. They didn’t taste like the restaurant sauces and they didn’t come with carrot juice.
Update 02 June 2011: It’s official. Wagamama is coming to Edinburgh. They are taking the unit on 1 Castle Street, just off Lothian Road.
The Avenue, The Elements Shopping Centre
Livingston, West Lothian EH54 6GS
Tel: 01506 442 015