Asian Inspired Fave Wagamama Launches in Murray Hill with Exclusive Dish Paying Tribute to Curry Hill Locale
After expanding to 196 locations in 27 countries worldwide, UK-based wagamama has been winning fans in New York too with its fresh spin on Asian fusion cuisine. Coming soon, the wildly popular eatery will open its third NYC locale, this time in Murray Hill. Wherever they’re located, the restaurants develop a cult following, with devotees like Momofuku’s David Chang crediting wagamama for his decision to become a chef. At the heart of wagamama’s success is its egalitarian “Bowl to Soul” philosophy: wholesome, fresh food and a welcoming environment to nourish the body as well as the soul.
The newest New York wagamama highlights recently introduced vegan menu options and an updated bar program that extends its playful interpretations of classic cocktails, sake range and Asian craft beers. To celebrate the Murray Hill opening, wagamama will also offer its first exclusive dish in the U.S., for a limited time and only in the new location. Available for just one month, the Hot Katsu curry is a fiery version of the restaurant chain’s iconic Chicken Katsu curry, a dish ordered 3.5 million times a year in the UK alone. As a launch bonus, the first 50 guests through the door on opening day will have their choice of a hot or regular Katsu curry served free of charge.
While wagamama is a restaurant that aims for a lively, fun ambiance, where you can step away from the daily grind, it takes sourcing and preparing its food with the utmost seriousness. Global Executive Chef Mangleshot has created recipes that draw inspiration from the flavor profiles of Asia, putting a modern twist on dishes prepared with the best raw ingredients, whether it’s a bowl of hearty ramen, sizzling teppanyaki, steaming donburi or a selection from the new vegan menu.
“For instance, Katsu Curry is Japanese comfort food,” Mangleshot explains. “Traditionally the sauce is mild but ours packs an aromatic punch. In Japan, they modify the dish based on spice preference between 1–10. I dialed it up to 6 for our Hot Katsu as a tribute to the many Indian curry restaurants in the Murray Hill area.”
For wagamama’s ramen, Mangleshot says he wanted the lightness of Vietnamese pho, but the depth flavor found in Japanese versions. “Ramen stock varies from region to region,” he says. “Each one is unique and ours had to be unique to wagamama. I took the best parts of all the broths I tried throughout Asia and created our three wagamama base stocks.” To achieve its distinctive bold yet delicate taste, wagamama breaks with tradition by simmering chicken bones rather than pork.
The vegan selections, created in response to growing demand, reflect wagamama’s commitment to catering to the needs of its guests. In addition to adapting wagamama favorites like Yaki Soba and Pad Thai to make them vegan friendly, Mangleshot visited Japan and Korea in search of fresh ideas. His travels sparked the new Kare Burosu ramen, udon noodles in a curried vegetable broth, topped with mixed mushrooms and shichimi-coated tofu, a flavor-walloping combo that proves meat free doesn’t mean taste free.
In line with the opening of the new Murray Hill location, wagamama is expanding its bar offering. Among the specialty Asian-twist cocktails, developed in conjunction with NYC mixologist Adam Schuman, are a lychee martini combining vodka, vermouth and sake spiked with a sweet lychee liqueur; a yuzu collins, an amped up version of the classic with gin; yuzu sake and ginger liqueur; and the wagamama old fashioned, which gets its kick from three Japanese whiskeys blended with sherry and lychee liqueur. Among the mocktails on the drinks’ menu is a refreshing cranberry+blossom, cranberry juice, cherry blossom syrup and lemon juice, topped with soda and garnished with mint.
The revised drink program also features a wider spirit range focused on Japanese whiskey (a rapidly growing category), more bottled beers, among them a matcha brew, and a broader sake assortment, including a sake flight. Plus, the restaurant is launching a selection of eight specialty teas, highlighted by a zesty lychee and a floral red berry and hibiscus infusion.
Ahead of its time in pioneering the communal table, open kitchen and serving made-to-order dishes as soon as they’re ready, wagamama — the chain launched in the UK in 1992 — has always emphasized an egalitarian environment where the setting enhances the positive eating experience. Murray Hill turns up the volume on the streamlined décor of handsome exposed brick walls, pendant lighting and sleek wood seating with a colorful graffiti mural by up-and-coming, London–based street artist Woskerski.
The result is a buzzy, sociable vibe that encourages conversation with friends… or the stranger sitting next to you. Easy and accessible, wagamama is an inviting spot that encourages guests to eat informally and to drop in at any time — to unwind after work, for a girls’ night out, after the gym, for a weeknight family dinner or with a party of 18. The friendly and attentive wagamama team is on hand to ensure diners leave happy and satisfied, from first seating to final noodle slurp.
Now firmly established in the US, wagamama has raised the bar on nourishing, casual dining. Murray Hill joins wagamama locations in NoMad and the East Village in New York and three in Boston. Buoyed by its embrace by the Big Apple, wagamama plans a fourth NYC eatery in Midtown scheduled to open in 2019.