Note: I visited Wagamama six weeks ago, and they have since shut down. This review was written before they closed their doors.
There was a point in my life when having Japanese food was a really special occasion. My parents rarely took my brother and I out to restaurants and when they did it was always to cheap Chinese restaurants or Hong Kong diners . They didn’t, and my father still doesn’t, like to try new things.
I remember the first time I ever visited Wagamama in Melbourne when I was in Year 9 in high school. A friend and I had just watched a movie and needed to grab some food. Instead of our usual teenage McDonald’s order, we decided to have a proper meal at Wagamama. I struggled to understand the menu – what were gyozas? What’s katsu? What’s bento? The whole menu was entirely foreign to me, a kid who grew up on Chinese menus.
Of course now that I’m older, with disposable income, and have been privileged enough to try a wide variety of cuisines at many different very fancy and expensive restaurants, Wagamama no longer holds the same position as a “special occasion” restaurant. It was however, perfect to drop into for a casual meal.
K and I dropped into Wagamama at The Galeries one night after my regular monthly plasma donation appointment. K ordered an apple, mint and lime juice, which is a refreshing blend of sweet cloudy apple and tart lime.
K was concerned about my iron levels after donating plasma, so he ordered a beef yakitori for us to share. I found the beef to be much chewier than I usually prefer, though it was grilled to a good level of smokiness. I probably wouldn’t order this again, as it was just a bit too ‘beefy’ for me – there’s fresh beef, and then there’s beef that’s verging on the end of too old and pungent.
My portobello salad was much more enjoyable – it was a great mix of warm grilled vegetables including mushroom, pumpkin, eggplant and onion with cold baby salad leaves and Chinese cabbage. It’s the kind of warm hearty salad that you can have plenty of during winter, and not feel guilty as it’s just chock-full of healthy veggies without too much overpowering dressing.
K’s Wagamama Ramen was a bit like the “Combination with the Lot” that you might see on Chinese restaurant menus. It included a bit of everything that you might find on their menu – chicken yakitori, grilled prawns, squid, soft tender pork, and more. It’s a great sample of what Wagamama have to offer, and K ended up slurping down every last mouthful. I quite liked the clear, sweet and salty broth as well, which was very more-ish.
Wagamama isn’t the cheapest Japanese restaurant around, especially considering it even has to compete with the cheap and tasty Sushi Hotaru which is located on the same level of The Galeries. However with a 25% off coupon from my Entertainment Book, our meal for two ended up being under $50, which certainly doesn’t break the bank.
If I’m going to be honest though, I’d have to admit that I wouldn’t have returned to Wagamama for a second meal, even if they had stayed open. While some of the dishes were a real hit (the portobello salad), others were more of a miss (beef yakitori). There’s many other Japanese restaurants in Sydney that I’m yet to try!