Daring to be different, wagamama burst onto the foodie scene in 1992. Revolutionary in everything from décor to the way customers ordered their meals, it was the fast, fresh Japanese-inspired experience we didn't know we needed. This novel approach to food translated to almost immediate – and continued – success.
Wagamama has always prided itself on its kaizen philosophy – a Japanese ethos meaning 'good change' – and it's all about pushing to be the best you can be. This isn't just bandied around in corporate HQ though. Chefs are encouraged to keep stepping it up too – finding new ingredients, flavours and styles. And it's this constant innovation to evolve that's at the heart of their success.
Asian-inspired and focusing on fresh and stimulating flavours such as chilli, ginger and lemongrass, the eats here are based around comforting noodle and rice dishes. At the heart of their menu you'll find an old favourite – ramen. Served up in all sorts of spicy broths, this hearty portion will definitely keep you going – choose from loads of different combinations, including chilli chicken, barbecue pork and seafood. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, opt for all three in thrown in together in the aptly named Wagamama Ramen.
Founded by Alan Yau – a Hong Kong-born entrepreneur who moved to the UK when he was a child – wagamama was initially greeted with some scepticism by the foodie industry. But 25 years later, the naysayers have undoubtedly been proved wrong. The name is a Japanese word, meaning 'wilful' or 'self-indulgent' – and it's a place where you can completely indulge yourself.
The first restaurant in Bloomsbury, London opened with a bang. Expansion was rapid, with the 100th branch of wagamama opening just two decades after the first one popped up. Now, there are more than 140 locations across the globe, including five here in the Netherlands.
Classic Asian dishes rule the roost here. Go for some Yaki Udon, where you'll find teppan-fried udon noodles with curry oil, chicken, shrimp, chikuwa, egg, bean sprouts, leeks and garnished with fried shallots, vivid red ginger and sesame seeds. If you want even more punch, go for the Ginger Chicken Udon, where zesty chicken is met with chilli peppers for extra kick.
Alongside your other regulars like Pad Thai and Lamb Teriyaki, they also know a thing or two about whipping up a good curry. Go for the Raisukaree if you want to tap into those citrusy, coconut-y flavours, mixed in with pea pods, peppers, red onions, coriander, fresh lime, chillies and plated up with white rice. Or, if you're feeling extra bold, go for the Firecracker – a fiery mix of peppers, onions, shichimi and zingy red chillies.