Wagamama opened its doors at Water Street Tampa a few months ago. The concept serves Asian fusion dishes and brings a fresh take on Asian cuisine to Tampa that will appeal to different tastes. Although Jotoro at Sparkman Wharf nearby attempts to incorporate Asian cuisine on the menu, Wagamama does it much better and with more creativity.
The restaurant has plenty of seating both inside and outside and reservations can easily be made online. Wagamama originally opened in 1992 in London across the Atlantic Ocean and says it was “inspired by fast-paced, japanese ramen bars” as well as a “celebration of asian food.” The concept has now expanded around the planet. There are only four locations in the United States in Atlanta, Boston, New York, and now Tampa.
The fact that brand chose Tampa and not Orlando or Miami to expand says plenty about Tampa’s growth as a food city. Let’s talk food now. Wagamama focuses on bowl dishes with ramen and noodles being one of its main attractions. There is also a selection of shareable plates and other items that can be ordered.
During our visit we ordered the chili calamari, pork belly and panko apple bao, Tokyo fries, and chicken katsu sando. One thing to note is that many of the menu items are spicy. You’ll want to ask for them to tone it down if you’re sensitive, I was reaching for my drink often during my visit, but it wasn’t unbearable by any means.
The chili calamari ($12) was absolutely delicious. Plenty of pieces to share. It’s the thin strips of squid with this really tasty chili batter. It reminds me a bit of Yummy House in Tampa, with a twist. I recommend it.
The pork belly and panko apple bao ($9) was delightful. You receive two with your order and they were a nice portion, I’d recommend it for a light appetizer. It’s really flavorful.
The Tokyo fries ($12) are like a twist on Korean food with sweetened steak on top that tastes like bulgogi and very thin sweet potato crisps. It’s flavorful and delicious. Not enough sweet potato in my opinion, but still good. You get plenty of meat with this dish. It could easily be an entree.
My favorite thing hands down though was the chicken katsu sando ($15). Each piece of the sandwich has two chicken cutlets cooked to perfection and then is bottomed with Japanese curry sauce. The sauce is actually medium and a little spicy so be prepared for that. The bread gets a little soaked since its white bread so I recommend eating it quickly. The sandwich was a little dry on the ends so I asked for mayo and dunked the sandwich in it. Perfect.
The only way this could be improved is with some Japanese milk bread. There’s not enough places in Tampa serving milk bread and its needed. Otherwise I will probably have a hard time not ordering this.
The cocktails were also great. We tried two during our visit. The Thai Chili Margarita ($11) features ghost tequila, chili liqueur, coconut syrup, fresh lime juice, japanese chili, and lime bitters as well as cayenne and a cinnamon salt rim. It’s not too spicy and packs a punch. I am a fan.
The Southside Tokyo ($13) was also good. It features greenhook gin, fresh mint syrup, aloe vera liqueur, fresh lemon, and mint. It’s refreshing.
Overall, our visit was great to Wagamama and I can’t wait to go back. It’s a great addition to Water Street. The prices are fair considering how expensive Tampa is now. It’s become really hard to enjoy the waterfront. They also have a lunch menu and bar menu I want to explore.
I want to try the noodles and soups they have as well and some of the donburi rice bowls in the future. I hope they keep the chicken katsu sando and upgrade it, because it was honestly the best thing I had.
Restaurant Name: Wagamama
Cuisine: Japanese, Asian fusion, Asian
Address: 1050 Water St., Tampa, FL 33602
Phone Number: (813) 429-9242