The day we finished our first semester of college in 2015, my friends and I drove to the Atlanta-based Wagaya Japanese Restaurant in Midtown. The savory broth and chewy noodles really hit the spot, so we made it a tradition to go after finals every semester.
Since then, I’ve sampled many ramen spots in and around Atlanta, and Wagaya has remained one of my favorites. Its Red Spicy Tonkotsu ramen, a ramen flavored with spicy pork broth and comes with spicy red sauce, is my go-to. Now, the restaurant has opened in Emory Village.
As I’ve had the Red Spicy Tonkotsu a number of times, I decided to change it up and order the Black Sesame Tonkotsu ramen. Tonkotsu usually means breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet, but when it comes to ramen, most restaurants serve braised pork instead, with the soup base flavored like tonkotsu.
While I had a good experience, the ramen in itself was not as high of a caliber in the Village as it was at the Midtown location. Even though a noodle’s texture can add to the taste of ramen, the broth’s flavor is what makes or breaks the meal. In the Village, the ramen broth was only decent, with a light, nearly diluted pork flavor. Nothing in particular about the dish as a whole spoke to me, and the noodle texture was almost sub-par.
After dinner we got the Matcha Box, a delicious dessert item featuring green tea ice cream with red beans, strawberries and mochi. The red beans and mochi complemented the matcha (ground green tea) flavor nicely. But for $6, there could have been a little more substance. Even so, it was an excellent dessert that could be shared among friends, perfect for a hot summer night.
However, I don’t know many people that go into a ramen shop just to eat dessert; it’s the ramen that counts.
In Eastern Asian cultures, sharing food is customary and strengthens the bond between family or friends. The ambience in the Village was similar to that of the Midtown location — red lanterns and oriental paintings were everywhere, giving off a simultaneously authentic and familial atmosphere.
I’ll inevitably be back to eat at Wagaya again, since ramen has always had quite the reputation on college campuses. However, given the lower quality, customers may be better off going to the Midtown location.