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osatsuma: wagamama was here, perhaps literally even

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What do you get when you take a wildly successful restaurant concept of questionable deliciousness, replicate it right down to the bench-style seating, minimalist decor, modernist logo treatments and architectural motifs, and plop it in the middle of London a few blocks away from the shop from which you drew your initial inspiration? You change the name, paint the walls, and um, hope no one notices, I suppose. Yes, in that the time-tested tradition of one entrepreneur shamelessly stealing another’s concept (why does this always seem to happen in Asian businesse circle smore than most?) comes Osatsuma in London, a flagrant knock-off of the ubiquitous Wagamama chain of noodle shops; why anyone would bother is beyond me, although as with most imitators, quality is rarely much of a consideration.

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In truth, I hadn’t intended to try Osatsuma at all, at least not on this particular trip. With a few hours to kill before my afternoon flight out of Heathrow, a friend and I had been hunting for a seafood bar I’d noted on a previous day’s wander. Alas, the twisting streets got the best of me as I kept passing Osatsuma, conveniently enough. Denied North Atlantic oysters, we opted for consolation; at least I could pack in one more ramen stop on my way out of town.

What we entered, then, turned out to be a virtual carbon copy of Wagamama with a fresh coat of paint. Had a Wagamama existed in this very spot? I wondered. It was entirely possible. All I knew was that the menu had been pared down; there was less of a Wagamama-style positive eating twist on the ramen dishes and rather straightforward variations with chicken and beef, seafood, and the like. Miraculously, Osatsuma had gone on to eschew Wagamama’s notoriously flaccid and floury noodles, opting instead for some generic squiggly ramen that were a touch more servicable than the typically spongy strands of other London ramen shops.

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The chicken shoyu ramen was neither here nor there, though the generous portions of chicken chashu (dark meat) had been grilled to a fair state, with a nicely singed exterior providing shades of crispiness. Already, this was better, or at least more accessable splurping, than most of Wagamama’s offerings.

Alas, the remaining components were sub-par; the hard boiled egg was rock (and not in a good way) and the shoyu soup all too reminiscent of any number of instant ramen offerings on the mainstream Western market - Maruchan “Oriental Flavor” perhaps. It could have been worse, but I wish I had found that oyster bar instead.

nothing a sachet of instant ramen soup base can't fix. or create, more like. osatsuma's shoyu soup tastes none to different from some of the stuff you might find in your local super's asian foods section. yes, you could probably make this at home.4
a cut above the spongy noodles found at many of the UK's more respectable ramen shops. maybe those guys are just trying too hard. just order the generic stuff from the importers, yo.5
a nicely grilled chunk of chicken is offset by a lame hard boiled egg. at least there were no snow peas to be found. the bean sprouts and seaweed didn't really add much, although two slices of naruto are a hoot.5
no time for gyoza when you've got a plane to catch!NA
like wagamama, right down to the bench-style seating, but with an orange twist. not bad, but they don't get any points for originality, that's for sure. 5.5
if you're going to knock off another ramen shop's aesthetic sensibilities, you could do worse. the ramen however, needs work.3

56 Wardour Street
London W1D 4JG
020 7437 8338

mon-tue 12p - 11p
wed-thu 12p - 11:30p
fri-sat 12p - 12a
sun 12p - 10:30p

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