Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Boston, MA; London, UK
Review by SuSu, Diana, MaceVindaloo, Diasala, Iszy, Lizard, Gornpod, WalrusPengie, Papasan
There are actually over 75 locations worldwide, but they did not start in Japan, but instead in London. Some of us have been to that original location, and recently went to a new location on Boston's Faneuil Hall mall.
It's basically a noodle house, and most of their offerings include noodles in some form, including gyoza, which is a dumpling, wrapped in noodle dough sheet. Japanese style, the dumplings are pan-fried and steamed and served six to an order with dipping sauce. To offer a more "pan-Asian" experience, fillings include chicken or duck, the latter served with hoisin sauce. We'd concluded this independently, but we've confirmed it here: chicken gyoza is bland and not worth making or eating. The duck (and traditional pork) fillings were good. But there isn't really enough to share, despite having six of these dumplings, so maybe best to skip appetizers here.
Placemats are the menus, and you order by number from the server (rather than from a take-out window). The server will then scribble the number directly on your placemat, so that they don't have to go through the fuss of remembering who ordered what. This may sound trite, but why don't they have a more transparent system to know who ordered what? Yes, there are tons of places where the server comes over laden with places and says dumb stuff, like, "Now, who ordered the chicken?" That's offensive, too. Maybe we are aficionados of the Dogbert school of tipping assuming a starting point of 20% of the pre-tax bill, and you go down with every infraction! (Good service can make up for some of these annoyances, of course.)
The kitchen is fully exposed to the public, and the seating is very cafeteria-style with upscale picnic-bench type of furniture. It's noisy and the food is pleasant. It's actually a good choice to open this place in a college town like Boston. It gives students a place to take their parents where the food is better than at a bar, yet it feels a bit like a cacophonous cafeteria. It's more expensive than a noodle bar or a cafeteria, but the decor and pan-Asian variety of the menu offerings make up for it.
But for those among us who were raised in Asian homes, the food isn't really ... well, it's "okay." Maybe because the attempts are fusion kind of rob the dish of what made it great in the first place. Fusion is always dangerous because you have to keep what really is great about a dish, and that could be different things to different people. It could also mean that the person doing the fusion does not have intense experience with the two individual cuisines which are being pressed together, and so dropped out the charm of individual dishes.
It's not an easy thing, despite the fashionableness of the idea. Fusion is a serious, will-fail effort unless it's done thoughtfully. Some of us love Wagamama in London, the flagship. It's likely that the chefs and thinktank responsible for the London location really did get it, and did a fine job. But in Boston, it was a bit of a mishmash.
The most successful dishes were the noodle soup, served in huge bowls with flavorful, aromatic broth. The panfried noodles were very popular with some of us, too. The desserts were forgettable and the pies and cakes were cut poorly. The sorbet was pretty, but it's pretty obvious that desserts are not their forté.
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