When Wagamama, a British-based pan-Asian noodle restaurant, first opened in Boston a few years ago, I thought that our fair city was a surprising choice for the chain's first American location. But when I remember my first encounter with Wagamama, while visiting a friend who was studying abroad in London, it made perfect sense. What other American city has so many college students in such a small area (50 schools in 50 square miles)? I know that more than half of my junior class studied abroad, so multiply that by 49 more schools, and you've got a fair number of kids clamoring for something that reminds them of their time abroad.
Now, I don't know if this is actually why Wagamama chose Boston for its first three locations (Faneuil Hall, Prudential Center, and Harvard Square). But I think it's working for them. Every time I eat at a Wagamama, there seem to be throngs of young adults nestled over their steaming bowls of noodles.
Wagamama recently invited a whole tableful of bloggers to taste some old favorites and some new additions to the menu. We tried a little bit from all the different parts of the menu. I especially loved the chili calamari (cut into long slices instead of rings and super tender and crunchy, even though it doesn't look crunchy at all), the melon juice (apple, orange, and watermelon) and the marinated yasai noodle salad (grilled eggplant, mushrooms, and zucchini, with caramelized red onion, roasted sweet potato, asparagus, tomato, lettuce, whole wheat noodles, pickled ginger, and sesame seeds). (Pictures of other dishes are here.) Are any of these dishes particularly authentic Asian-of-any-kind? No, not really. But they are really good food, and if you don't want to get mired down in definitions, you'll be well-fed.
My absolute favorite dish of the night, though, was the lemongrass shrimp soba (above). The noodles were tossed in a sauce of cilantro, garlic, and chilies, and topped with some well-grilled shrimp. It doesn't look like all that much, but the flavor! So crisp and clean! I kept going back to sneak more bites of this long after I was sufficiently full. The dish is served hot but would be just as good cold (in fact, in the summer heat, it would be even better cold). I have found myself thinking about this dish long after the other dishes (although delicious) had fallen from my mind.
Wagamama US has three Boston locations (Faneuil Hall, Prudential Center, and Harvard Square) and is relatively cheap (almost every dish falls under $15, many closer to $10).
Full Disclosure note: This meal was provided for free by Wagamama. But I wouldn't write about it if I didn't like it!