Thursday, June 7, 2007

Wagamama as Comfort Food

For a short time, my husband and I lived in London. We were pretty much broke, because rent in London was then, as I'm sure it is now, comically expensive, and we were both 22, with the sort of lousy pay that fresh grads tend to have. We got very lucky and found a place that was near a major park (Hampstead Heath), did not smell like cat piss (more than one place we looked at did), was not actively frightening to walk in during the day, did not have a tiny microwave with a hot plate on top for the "kitchen," and was not in, say NW24 or SE36 - meaning, we didn't have to spend an hour getting to our respective workplaces.
Where I worked turned out to be almost around the corner from what became one of our favorite London restaurants, Wagamama. Which is now a multi-national chain. I'd love to say I was ahead of trend or that I discovered it when nobody knew about it... but the original location was jam-packed every day.
Part of the reason we loved it was because it was cheap (relatively, for us), hot, easy and much, much better than fish and chips or something from a kebob stand. And although it was not a sit-around-for-as-long-as-you'd-like sort of place, you did actually sit to eat, and it was clean. The kebab stands and fish-and-chips stands of Camden Town and Kentish Town at the time were not really places you wanted to take a seat at in January. Or February. Or April, or May - you get the idea. In fact, unless you were so hungry you were considering the merits of gnawing on your own arm, they weren't particularly appealing. At all.
Wagamama was heated, and cheap, and the food was tasty. It was a noodle place with a heavy focus on ramen, in a big bowl of broth. The broth was quite tasty, and had enough vegetables in it, to dispel any thoughts of college dorm room hot pots. And they had a juice, that, if we were feeling splurgy, we would get. And gyoza. Mmm.

When we came back home, we would semi-regularly cook up a Wagamama style ramen dinner. It's been several years since we've done it. But the other night, I had a serious yen for Wagamama-style ramen. I don't know if it's because I found out they're invading the States (first stop: Boston - where we'll be heading at the end of the summer) or if it was because it was rather raw for June, but either way, it made for a nice big bowl of something good. Maybe after our obligatory visit to the USS Constitution, we can hit the Boston location. Although I'm thinking that checking out the best ice cream in Boston would be a pretty worthy goal.

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