There’s no question that Japanese food has surged in popularity in recent years.
Broadcasting firm NHK found that the number of Japanese restaurants around the world tripled from 24,000 to 89,000 between 2006 and 2016. What’s more, in 2013, Japanese cuisine was added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, a move that will ensure the preservation of the techniques and tastes of the Land of the Rising Sun for years to come.
So it appears our hunger for sushi, ramen, tempura and mochi shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.
Here in Abu Dhabi, the number of restaurants serving authentic Japanese cuisine has also increased and another contender for the capital’s favourite destination for a noodle fix has emerged.
British chain Wagamama, inspired by Japan’s fast-paced ramen bars, has finally opened in Abu Dhabi having kept stomachs full in Dubai for the past few years.
Located in Abu Dhabi Mall, the restaurant is inspired by the Japanese’s love for minimalism, with sparse interiors, long wooden tables and benches, and an open kitchen to watch as the chefs prepare dishes to order.
The menu certainly has no shortage of options with everything from gyozas and steamed buns for starters to curries, ramen dishes, teppanyaki, donburi, vegan specials and desserts.
The chicken steamed gyoza is a great way to start. The small dumplings are stuffed with a rich filling of chicken, cabbage and garlic, and the soft dough easily soaks up the moreish soy-based dipping sauce.
For something heartwarming with a fiery kick, the sirloin steak chilli ramen hits the spot. A large bowl of spicy chicken broth arrives at the table filled with a generous serving of soft ramen noodles and thin cuts of succulent sirloin beef all topped with sharp red onion and green spring onion, crunchy beansprouts, red chilli, fresh coriander and a punch of fresh lime. I slurp and sip my way through the dish with pleasure.
The mochi ice cream is just the thing to ease the palate after such a spicy dish. The dessert arrives with three flavours – lychee, green tea and mango – alongside a rich chocolate sauce. Each flavour is equally enjoyable, with the sharp mango and lychee providing refreshment and the soothing green tea offering a deep earthy flavour.
All in all, with an impressive menu of Japanese food dishes, the introduction of Wagamama promises that our love for Far East flavours will not wane anytime soon.
Need to know
Location: Wagamama, Abu Dhabi Mall, Al Zahiyah
We say: A hearty dose of Japanese flavours
Cost: Around AED 140 per person
Opening times: Daily 11am-midnight
Contact: 02 679 7466, wagamama.ae
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez