I really just needed a bowl of warming spicy chicken noodle soup and perhaps some nice soft dumplings or potstickers, just to perk me up and give my brain a lift. I had a terrible sore throat and a head cold this lunchtime and my body needed some respite from Mr Cold. I really thought that Wagamama might have been the answer. It honestly would not be my first choice, and its location with the Cornerhouse complex puts me off but needs must, it was there and so was I.
I am not a chain restaurant person, and I admit that I am often a little bit dismissive in general of crossing their doors, to the point of being a bit of a snob about it. But I was curious, somehow it has found itself at the top of the Urbanspoon rankings for popularity in Nottingham, not the definitive barometer, but how did that happen and why? and should it be there? It has always looked so nice and shiny from the outside and I have pressed my nose up against the window to see all the people inside slurping their noodles and eating morsels with their chopsticks. I often thought I want to be in their too (even though I really knew, in the back of my head that I didn’t want to be, and that it wasn’t going to be for me)
To start off with I ordered the ‘duck gyoza’, one of the side dishes, which is described on the menu as “five deep-fried duck dumplings served with a spicy cherry hoi sin sauce” for £5.70. I really did not like these, but was that my fault for ordering them? I should have paid more attention to the words ‘deep-fried’! This particular way of cooking the dumpling renders the outer casing hard, dry, a crumbling bite (not a crunchy one), in my opinon somewhat unappetizing to look at and actually rather unappealing to eat. I should have tried the steamed version of these instead. The duck filling was quite nice and the hoi sin dipping sauce almost saved them as it that was actually really quite tasty, but even with that I was only able to eat 4 of the 5 and I could have easily stopped after the first one. Shame really, but a lesson learned as I won’t have these again. The curious thing was that my waitress told me that these are one of the more popular dishes sold at Wagamama. Maybe I am out on my own tree limb when it comes to this particular culinary branch? Although I do consider myself to be something of a dumpling fiend, connoisseur, and aficionado. So basically I know what I like.
For the second dish I opted for a ‘chicken itame’ which is described on their menu as “rice noodles in a spicy green coconut and lemongrass soup topped with stir-fried chicken, beansprouts, chillies, red and spring onions, bok choi, peppers and mushrooms, garnished with coriander and lime” for £9.75. This was supposed to be the dish to clear my nasal passages and assist with killing off that cold. I only managed to eat or is it drink? about half of this large bowlful. When I was asked if I was enjoying it, I had to answer honestly “Not really, I doesn’t have as much flavor as I expected” I felt a little sad when I saw the crestfallen face on the waiter’s face, to be fair he did ask if I would like to swap it for something else and then brought over a basket of condiments and suggested that I could add some hot sauce or chilli sauce to perk it up. Looking back, it may well have tasted fine, but maybe my cold was impairing my ability to taste any of the flavour that all of the freshly chopped and added ingredients should have imparted to the dish. The soupy sauce did in itself taste ok, and the veg was nice and crunchy, it wasn’t unpleasant, it just wasn’t exciting me.
Would I come back? The thing is that it was damn expensive for what it was, almost 20 pounds with a diet coke, so it is not somewhere that I would be willing to try again just to see if the other dishes were ones that I would like better. Especially when I expect that I could go to a proper restaurant, a more independent one, and what I imagine will be a less mass produced type of meal at a more reasonable price. I think I might just continue to ‘eat around’, which, as I type, make me sound like some sort of food slut. Hey I don’t mind that to be honest.
So Wagamama was not for me, but it may be for you. That is why I say that I am just telling the story of my food hunts and the journey along the way, it is not a review and I am not an expert, just a guy who is getting somewhat obsessed with eating out searching for my perfect meals and the things that hit my taste buds. I do of course hope that more often than not I am successful and that I am able to tempt you to take a trip out to some of the places I find, or even to head out on your own hunting trips.
If you do want to try Wagamama out (and you haven’t been to one of their other multiple nationwide locations) then this one in Nottingham is at the Cornerhouse on Burton street. The closest Tram stop is going to be at the Royal Centre, but you could walk up a couple of minutes from the Old Market Square Stop instead. If you wanted to that is.