General recipe development
Chicken Katsu – a timeless classic
When Wagamama opened in Wigmore Street, I would often pop-in for lunch. You may think this a rather extravagant indulgence for a simple midday meal, but judging by the daily queues one could be forgiven for thinking that the place was no more than a staff canteen. Besides, I was on a mission to understand the new trendy food. Queues, however, do normally indicate that lunch will not be a quick affair, but with Wagamama’s automated and efficient method of seating, ordering, cooking and serving it was possible to have lunch and return to the office within an hour. Wagamama also made it easy for eating on one’s own – the overly democratic benches did at least allow for comfortable anonymity.
On my first visit, I had a bowl of rice and a gyoza starter and a juice. On subsequent visits, I noticed it seemed de rigour to order a bowl of endamame beans with a meal. So I did too. Then I noticed the big bowls of soup: ramen. So I started to order this… But by far the most popular – nay ubiquitous – meal served was a plate filled with a large mound of rice in the shape of half a cacao bean smothered in a grey brown sauce and served with what looked like tasty fried chicken.
Ah, chicken katsu.
How clever of Wagamama to take four Japanese staples (rice, curry, chicken, panko) and make a million. I quickly adapted my lunchtime forays up Wigmore Street to include a regular fix of chicken katsu.
In the beginning, the brand was a little confused – all the blurb was about the super-healthy and nutritious life-style nature of their food. But it was not. It was about, the long tables and hip waiters, the whizzy handsets and scribbles on your place mat… It was about an exposed kitchen and wok burners with leaping flames – and it was about the name ‘Wagamama’ and the menu lingo with all those m’s, y’s, and k’s…
It was also about good food, based on endless variations of Japanese and Asian wok cookery…
But mainly it was about the chicken katsu.