Eat & Drink

Published on July 26th, 2021 | by Brussels In View

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Celebrate Tokyo Olympics in style – at wagamama

Despite the ongoing pandemic and empty stadiums, the Olympics in Japan are finally under way. It’s some much needed good news amidst all the doom and gloom of late.

And, if the sight of your country’s sportsmen excelling themselves in faraway Tokyo has made you “wishing you were there” a Brussels restaurant may have just the answer.

While it may be in the Belgian capital rather than its Japanese equivalent, the restaurant in question – wagamama – offers some tastes and flavours every bit as good as you are likely to find in the land of the rising sun.

wagamama is now a well-known international brand that offers some excellent Asian-fusion, particularly Japanese influenced, cuisine.Short of jumping on a plane and jetting off to the Olympics – something that is currently beyond the reach of all but a lucky few – this place is the next best thing to sampling some authentic and flavoursome Japanese food.

After cries from many Belgians of “when’s wagamama coming to Brussels”, a branch finally opened in the city in February last year.As we all subsequently discovered, this was not the best time to open anything as the crippling health crisis struck a few short weeks later.

The “new” restaurant was subsequently hit by the series of lockdowns that hit Belgium, as elsewhere, yet more bad luck which was ironic, given that folk here had waited so long for a second wagamama to open (there was/is already one in Antwerp which is due to move to another location in the 2nd city in the autumn).

Indeed, current assistant manager at Brussels, Katarina Mlynarcikova, who hails from Slovakia, estimates that the resto has spent more time closed than actually open since its official launch in 2020.

The good news, though, is that it is now very much open again and its loyal band of customers are flocking there to sample the delicious Asian food it has to offer.

Be prepared to be met with a formidable choice of some great dishes,including Ramen (which, for the uninitiated, is served in a noodle stock with meat or veg); Donburi (a traditional dish – a big bowl of rice with meat) and the famous Teppanyaki (grilled and a “quick” way of cooking).

Added to these are a selection of curries and Kokoro bowls (a lighter version of a curry).

One of the best sellers (particularly for British visitors) is the Katsu curry while other popular dishes (and among Katarina’s favourites too) include the grilled duck, steak bulgogi, the wonderfully named bang bang cauliflower, spicy tuna kokoro and tama squid. Veggies and vegans are catered for with, for instance, yasai, an aubergine and butternut dish.

It is also worth stressing there are some brand new dishes on the menu right now such as bang bang prawns and miso aubergine – both starters or sides – along with plates on the mains card including the curiously named naked katsu and an equally mouth-watering cod mokutan soba.

Good to know that you are unlikely to leave here feeling half full as the portions are more than generous.There’s also a nice choice of drinks, including a Japanese beer, and wines. Credit for the lovely cooking must go to Dorje, the head chef, ably supported by Prakash, his fellow Nepalese, the sous chef and their hard working team.

Given the top class quality of the food served here, the prices are remarkably cheap, not least for somewhere that is – very conveniently – located at the very heart of Brussels.

When it first opened last year, people were queuing to get in, such was the keen anticipation. Today, the place is just as busy but, thankfully, there’s plenty of space as the restaurant is spread over two floors and, for those sunny summer days, also has a nice terrace where you can watch the world go by.

The interior is easy on the eye with the now famous wagamama gold coloured counter and tables (all designed by the same company).

The owner’s original idea was to bring Asian flavours to Europe but to do with an added twist. Clearly, judging by the huge success of the brand, the concept has paid off handsomely.

Katarina, who joined the company as a waiter in 2014 and has since worked her way through the ranks, notes that while the Brussels branch had been hit by a spate of ill fortune it has since rebounded big time.

So, if you cannot get to Tokyo for the Olympics this summer head to your nearest wagamama (in Brussels or Antwerp) to get a taste of some genuinely great Asian food.
wagamama
Bld Anspach 21 Brussels
Website
T. +32 (0)2 520 5240

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