If I were to describe the ramen at wagamama in a word, it would be "fine". Definitely not the worst ramen I have ever had and certainly not the best.
Here's our rating out of 5:
wagamama is a British ramen chain that was created in 1992. They have over 140 restaurants in their chain globally - with most of the locations being in the UK. Their first location in New York just opened in Flatiron on 5th Ave. The establishment is not your typical ramen joint with 20 seats and long waits. The 5th Ave location seats around 200 people. When we went there was a line out the door (because they were not using all of there seating), but for a group of 5, we only waited 10-15 minutes and got some complimentary green tea while we waited.
The Shirodashi ramen was the only pork ramen on the menu so I decided it was worth trying. A major thing for my ramen is the broth, and both Ryan and I were in agreement that this broth was sub-par. It was missing the richness and umami taste that we crave for ramen. wagamama broth is chicken based, which is very different than pork based, but most of the chicken broths that I have had have more flavor and texture to them.
The pork was a little dry and the other ingredients were not that exciting and I felt they did not really bring anything to the dish as a whole. The extra ingredients almost felt as if they were there because they had to be....Everything felt very bland and...basic.
The noodles had a good texture to them though and were a great thickness and taste. They grew on me more and more as the meal went on and was for sure the highlight of the dish.
The chili chicken ramen is much different than other ramens, and I am not sure that this would ever be something I would order again. The broth is inflused with cilantro, lime, and chili peppers which gave it a Latin American flavor, which is a very weird concept. There seemed to be no Japanese flavors to this dish at all. The broth had an overpowering spiciness that wasn't "mouth-on-fire" hot, but definitely took away from the dish. It was more a bland soup with spice, than a good soup elevated by heat.
The ramen was topped with red onions which was also a strange choice. Ever add raw red onion to a salad and then all you taste is red onion. Well it was like that, but with ramen.
Speaking of salad, the soup was also topped with chicken breast that was sliced and placed on top as if you added grilled chicken to a salad. The chicken was moist, which was a plus to the pork, but was also very bland.
Long story short, with both ramens, is that the soup was very bland and did not have the typical Japanese flavors that we all crave in ramen. These bowls could be described as original, but the flavors just didn't hold up.
Service and all that jazz...
Not everything was bad about the place. First off, it is good for large groups, which is a plus. In addition, because it is a chain, they are very aware of their ramens and their ingredients. They take their allergies very seriously, which is really good for us as Ryan is allergic to peanuts. Sometimes going to Asian restaurants can be a challenge, but once we explained that he was allergic to peanuts, our waitress brought the manager out who had a binder filled with different popular allergies and what ingredients are in each dish and what an alternative could be. The manager went through each dish with Ryan to see if there were any peanuts - and we sure were glad he did. The allergen information is also online so you can check it out before you get to the restaurant in case you like to pre-order in your head like I do.
Allergies aside, the service itself was a little off kilter and the restaurant definitely needs some work in this department. How the ordering system works is that when you order with your server, they write down a number that corresponds to each dish on each person's place-mat. There seemed to be a lot of confusion here as some of the numbers that were written down did not actually go with what we ordered so there was a lot of back and forth with the waitstaff. We were handed an order or gyoza about 3 times, which we refused each time, before our server came over and assured us that they understood that we did not order this dish. Good thing, because it was used with oil that handles some of their peanut products.
One thing I will say though, their curry katsu looked SLAMMIN' and they have a pretty extensive Japanese beer selection. Not that I'm a Japanese beer connoisseur, but they have beers I've never heard of or seen at other Japanese restaurants. I think it is definitely worth going back just to try the other things they offer... just maybe not to quench my ramen cravings.
210 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010
is a New Yorker who, when she isn't day dreaming about ramen, works as a producer for film and TV. She is absolutely terrible at using chopsticks properly, but gets the job done. Her go to ramen order: Tonkotsu with thick noodles, extra corn and scallions.