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Restaurant Review: Wagamamas

By johnboy - 21 November 2008 28

[First filed: November 20, 2008 @ 16:09]

Wagamama on Bunda St in Civic is a strange beast.

High price global restaurant chains rarely appear in Canberra. Having been there for lunch yesterday I can see why.

This is not to say it’s bad. It was perfectly agreeable in every way.

Amongst it’s admirable qualities is a bar at the front of house where you can wait for your party to arrive before taking a seat.

They serve Japanese working man’s food in a Japanese working man’s setting, that is bench tables with different groups sharing a table.

There’s nothing wrong with that either.

Where it falls down is the price. The “Wagamama Ramen” pictured was a bit bland (late in the meal I was offered an excellent chili oil which could have made all the difference) and mostly featured re-heated bits in an innocuous noodle soup.

Reasonable value at $12.50 in a lot of places around town. But for $18.50 it just seemed a bit steep.

Two mains, two sides (un-remarkable gyoza dumplings), a sprite, two beers and we had a bill for $80. And it just wasn’t that special for that kind of money.

If it was a cheap eat their philosophy of “we serve it in the order we make it” might make sense, but for this money I’d like them to sort the kitchen out too.

The problem for them is that here in Canberra we’re spoilt for choice by excellent asian eateries.

I realise they’re different things, but there’s any number of restaurants doing a pho in this town that walk all over it. The noodle house at the Dickson Tradies is probably superior in some ways at least, and at nearly half the price.

Location might make it a good choice for a Civic business lunch (although depending on what you’re discussing the bench tables might be a problem), but for mine they just don’t do enough for the money.

What’s Your opinion?

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28 Responses to
Restaurant Review: Wagamamas
shiny flu 8:04 pm 20 Nov 08

I think you were being too kind in your review.

Wagamama’s food is complete crap!

Anybody who thinks that their food is good doesn’t understand nor can appreciate real Asian food – in the same way people love honey/sweet & sour prawns… food adapted for Westerners that can’t step 2cm away from meat and 3 veg.

The Wagamama concept (at least in Canberra) are for those who like to keep up appearances and with disposable taste buds- errr, income. It’s like paying ridiculous prices for standard/bland/average food, with Cafe Essen service, in a slightly-nicer-than-your-average food-court setting. Woot.

ogrex 7:09 pm 20 Nov 08

Well the 2-for-1 coupons come out every month it seems (we got on the mailing list at some point) and for that reason alone we go. I find the ramen to be tasty and the veggies fresh enough. I enjoy Sammy’s, Happy’s, etc. but generally find them to be heavier on oils than Wag fare.

I’ve had the salmon more times than I can count… and never had a problem.

Once we were in there and had to wait about 20 minutes for a seat. Service was slow but food was well prepared. Manager volunteered to comp our entire meal minus the drinks… without prompting.

Good, fair but not great.

hek62 6:51 pm 20 Nov 08

Oerpriced, slow service and bench seats…I can’t see why people rave about this place.

Holden Caulfield 6:48 pm 20 Nov 08

I’ve eaten there a few times, although not for about a year or so. Can’t say I’ve noticed the prices being too bad, but maybe they have increased???

I like it. Was almost going to go there for dinner tonight, but plan B won the day.

che 6:20 pm 20 Nov 08

Heres one
and I’m pretty sure the other time was back when Wagamamas first opened in Canberra (2004?), which will be on the old site.

Feebles 6:17 pm 20 Nov 08

Couldn’t agree more. My sister in London raves about Wagamama’s, but I just don’t see the appeal. I’d rather go to Sammy’s next door or the Noodle House on Northbourne. Wagamama’s food just seemed bland and mediocre, and crazily overpriced for what it was.

che 6:14 pm 20 Nov 08

From memory I think we’ve reviewed them 3 times on Riot now, and they all came out with pretty much the same message. Will try and find past stories but they might be on the old dead site.

niftydog 6:13 pm 20 Nov 08

nifty-sister-in-law was delivered in a quivering, sweaty bundle to the medical centre earlier today with a bad case of food poisoning after a visit to Wagamama last night. Avoid the Salmon, she says!

If there’s one thing I cannot stand in a restaurant it’s bad acoustics. Hard floors, glass and concrete walls, and no soft furnishings in site make me want to run the other way. I did get dragged to this place once and I was completely unimpressed with the acoustics, the service and the mixed spirits. The food was just ok, nothing special. On the night we went they had a monumental cock-up with the table numbers – we spent the entire night swapping dishes and drinks with the adjacent table.

tylersmayhem 5:06 pm 20 Nov 08

Let’s hope the franchisees of Waga’s are reading…

deezagood 5:03 pm 20 Nov 08

Yep – couldn’t agree more. Food is fresh and lovely, but quite unremarkable when compared to the numerous wonderful Asian eateries around Canberra (including the always-full one right next door to Wagamama – Sammy’s or Timmy’s, I always get the two mixed up!). I took the kids there a few weekends ago for a ‘cheap’ lunch and left $60.00 dollars lighter and still a bit hungry. I won’t be back.

tylersmayhem 4:57 pm 20 Nov 08

I once ate at Wagamama in London and it seemed pretty good value…

I completely agree with this comment and (believe it or not) with JB’s review of Waga here in Canberra. When living in London, I’d often eat at Waga’s for something quick, tasty and relatively cheap. Waga’s here has none of these points in my opinion, particularly the price. It’s take’s something fairly extreme for me not to buy a beer with this type of food, but when the price is over $8.00 for a small bottle of Asahi, Kirin or Sapporo – count me out.

Waga’s is not, and never has been a high-end eatery. Quit it with the high-end prices and I might return. I’m happy to say that the last 2 times I’ve been there has been either a 2 for 1 deal, or on a rewards card after points from a work lunch.

TroyWilliams 4:56 pm 20 Nov 08

One important omission in the review is the option of “standard” and “large” size glasses of wine which is enough to keep me happy. Standard – nah!

Personally, I like the place as I’ve found the quality of the food to be fine, the location handy and there is something about the waiter scribbling your order in crayon on the paper placemat which is neat.

New Yeah 4:40 pm 20 Nov 08

I once ate at Wagamama in London and it seemed pretty good value and, probably given the aged and grimey Thames-side neighbourhood it was housed in, faintly exotic.

I’ve since been to Wagamama in town twice and felt that it didn’t quite cut the mustard (should that be wasabi?) as the food was a bit too pricey for what we ate. Wagamama seems a bit like Starbucks; they underestimated the taste and expectations of us sophisticated Canberra types when setting up shop.

Granny 4:33 pm 20 Nov 08

I love their desserts!

deye 4:31 pm 20 Nov 08

The few times I have been there service has been exceedingly slow, enough so that I haven’t been back.

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