Restaurant Review: Wagamama Dublin

Wagamama, South King Street Dublin 2

From my earliest days of attending support groups, I remember quite clearly the lament of the family with typical children and a child with autism:
"we can't take him/her anywhere!"
Anywhere meaning The Christmas Panto', The Cinema, and those hideously over priced and under serviced "theme" restaurants where the waiters dress like the characters in American Sitcoms, but treat you like prisoners of war.

I'm afraid the complaints got little sympathy from me.

And I gotta say, I am frankly astounded at the willingness of some people to eat badly prepared food in dirty restaurants with bad service;

And to queue and pay extortionately for the pleasure??!!

The only benefit to this exercise in my eyes, seemed to be that Mother did not have to Clear Up and Do Dishes after the meal.

Unfortunately the restaurant staff didn't seem to like doing this either,

(as evidenced by food left on tables and stuck to the bottom of plates)

And as for trying to "enjoy" this atmosphere with a child with autism in tow.

The system of queuing for a table for over an hour was the first hurdle, then you had the long wait for deep fried food while the rest of the family may "chat" or use the charming little Juke Box on the table.

During which time the Autie child would be wondering why the hell are we sitting here in this noisy and unpleasantly crowded environment surrounded by people eating; And we aren't?

There would follow an attempt to borrow food from another table, food that had been left to congeal (see above) or even better; food that had just been served to another party.

And all this would take place against a back drop of "Musak" with surly minimum wage teenagers and other diners giving you the evil eye for even considering bringing your child out of the house.

Mr Hammie thinks I am being unreasonably critical of the themed family restaurant dining experience. Well, that is just my impression and I want you to consider that it may be your child's experience of the event too.

However, I am not saying that you should not be going out as a family to enjoy a meal. I am just saying you should pick your venue.

And to that end I want to tell you about Wagamama;
our choice of family restaurant.

Since 2001 we have been going to this gem of a noodle restaurant on South King Street and yesterday we celebrated 7 full years of Saturday Lunch.

We arrive and park in town at around 4pm, usually on the Green or in South Anne Street. Boo and Daddy go to HMV for a new DVD, and Mummy goes to the restaurant on King Street to queue for no more than 10 minutes, and then text Daddy when I have a table.

In the old days it was a book at Hughes and Hughes, but little boys grow up, and

"We're Going on a Bear Hunt" has to make way for

"The Matrix Reloaded" - alas.

We used to bring Bratty, but since she is more of an outdoor girl, she stays with an Angel and Boo gets to enjoy both his parents to himself. On Sunday Boo stays with an Angel and Bratty comes out with us for a walk in the woods. The system works.

Once I am seated I order drinks and Ebi Katsu, served with noodles instead of rice. When Boo and Daddy arrive we order the rest. The staff always seat us in a clearish corner so Boo has plenty of room to unwrap his latest acquisition and we are usually provided with crayons and coloring pages, although Boo tends to draw on the paper table mats.

The food comes quickly as it is ready; no messing around with entrees or mains and the infinite wait between courses that can prove so challenging to kids like ours. There is a lot to choose from on the menu, and Boo has gone from eating just the plain Udon noodles, to eating chicken and prawn katsu; tails and all!

Usually at some point one of the familar wait staff will come and chat to us and on Saturday one of the managers presented Boo with a staff badge, in honor of his 7 years loyal patronage.

The bill would be somewhere around half to 2/3rds of what you pay in the "themed" restaurant. But we all enjoy the food which is fresh and creative and yes, asian oriented but there are some conservative options for the more timid among you, such as the Chicken Katsu, an ideal beginners choice. Lightly crumbed chicken breast with a curry sauce served on rice with a salad - you'll love it!

There are very good vegetarian and gluten free options.Dairy doesn't feature hugely in Asian cooking anyway, but mention if you have a special diet or allergy and the wait staff will advise you.

And the proof as they say is in this: