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Eat and Drink

Wagamama ramen chain opens first NYC location near Madison Square Park

New York City has a new spot for ramen and other Japanese food, by way of London: Wagamama, the popular U.K.-based chain, opened the doors of its first city location Wednesday.

“I really do think that, for us, New York has been a long time coming,” the chain’s executive chef and director of food, Steve Mangleshot, said in an interview at the new location, across from Madison Square Park. “I think it’s really been a food capital of the world along, on par with London.”

The chain -- its name is Japanese for "naughty child" -- is ubiquitous in London, with 125 locations in the United Kingdom and others scattered throughout Europe and in the Middle East. But unless Americans have sampled it on a trip to Boston, where there are three locations, it might be foreign to stateside diners.

“I’d say it’s an eclectic mix of flavors throughout Asia, from Thailand to Japan, China, Korea,” Mangleshot said. “My job is the best job in the world, because I get to play in one of the biggest continents in the world and choose food from absolutely everywhere.”

In talking about his food, Mangleshot repeatedly returns to the word “fresh” -- “fresh ingredients,” “fresh steaks,” and, of course, “fresh noodles.”

“We believe in our noodles [so] much that we’ve actually flown them over here while we try to find a supplier in New York to make them for us because we didn’t want to give New York something that we weren’t as proud of as we are back home,” Mangleshot said.

New York is having a bit of a ramen moment -- Japanese chain Ichiran recently opened up shop in Brooklyn. Asked what makes Wagamama's ramen different, Mangleshot said the dishes are lighter: the kind of meal you can have for lunch without wanting to sleep it off at your desk.

"You can still do great ramen with loads of brilliant flavors, but still do it in a light way," he said.

Here’s a look inside the restaurant and at some of the dishes you can order.

Pork belly and panko apple hirata steamed bun

Apples and pork is a typical American pairing,
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

Apples and pork is a typical American pairing, but it works well in Asian fusion food too -- here the apples are breaded in panko breadcrumbs and served with tender pork belly, mayo, cilantro and a hint of Sriracha stuffed inside a fluffy steamed bun.

Yaki soba with chicken and prawns

These tender soba noodles are served with chicken
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

These tender soba noodles are served with chicken and prawns, egg, peppers, bean sprouts, white onion and scallions -- and garnished with crispy fried shallots, sesame seeds and pickled ginger that brightens things up in terms of both taste and appearance.

Wagamama ramen

A dish for the ramen lover who loves
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

A dish for the ramen lover who loves everything, the house specialty ramen includes sliced grilled chicken, barbecue pork, chikuwa, shell-on prawns, mussels and half of a "tea-stained" egg with an oozing yolk. Those much-prized noodles Mangleshot has imported to New York are enveloped in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso.

Add some chili oil

If you like heat, you'll find this chili
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

If you like heat, you'll find this chili oil addictive.

Banana katsu

This dish is a reason to save room
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

This dish is a reason to save room for dessert: deep fried bananas paired with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.

Wagamama Mai Tai

Unlike its Boston brethren, New York's Wagamama location
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

Unlike its Boston brethren, New York's Wagamama location will feature a full cocktail program. That includes the Wagamama Mai Tai, a refined version of the tiki classic.

Green juice

If you're looking to sip something healthier than
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

If you're looking to sip something healthier than rum, Wagamama offers a selection of fresh-pressed juices, including this delicious blend that will help you get your daily veggies.

Meet chef Steven Mangleshot

Asked if there was anything else he wanted
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

Asked if there was anything else he wanted people to know about his restaurant, Mangleshot quipped: "I love America and I'll cry if you don't come to our restaurant."

Watch your food being made

Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

"It's an open kitchen, which breeds confidence," Mangleshot said. "And it's a really good vibe. I think as a chef, when you're working in an open kitchen, it gives you that sense of pride."

Dining room

The location features large windows facing out onto
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

The location features large windows facing out onto both Fifth Avenue and Broadway, as the restaurant occupies an entire block.

Upstairs loft

There's also a loft with more dining space
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

There's also a loft with more dining space and a second bar.

Grab a seat at the bar

In addition to cocktails, bartenders will be serving
Photo Credit: Jillian Jorgensen

In addition to cocktails, bartenders will be serving up wine and a selection of Asian beers and sake.

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