When Asian chain Wagamama opened its first New York City restaurant in November, it also launched its first brunch menu, starring a breakfast-inspired version of ramen. In scouting locations, Adam Gregory, managing director of North America for the London-based chain, looked for a neighborhood with an active weekend brunch scene. NYC’s Flatiron District fit the chain’s plan with its customer base of frequent brunchers and the availability of a bilevel space with a relaxed vibe, says Gregory. To differentiate itself from the local competition, Wagamama’s menu and cocktails focus on Asian authenticity with a brunch twist. To build traffic and interest, marketing posted food photos on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtags #brunch, #meetthedish and #flatiron to show New Yorkers how it turned Japanese dishes into morning-worthy options.
To reposition the ramen for the morning, Executive Chef Steve Mangleshot downsized the portion. He also switched from a meat stock, which he feels is too heavy for brunch, to a dashi stock made with dried kelp and bonito flakes. He adds smoked bacon—the only new SKU—to season the stock and give it a breakfast spin. Poached eggs are common at brunch and in ramen, he says; so to signaturize the dish, Mangleshot soft-boils eggs instead, steeping them in tea “to make them more authentically Asian.” A drizzle of Sriracha adds heat.
|Instead of...||Try this...|
|Pork stock||Dashi stock|
|Slow-cooked pork belly||Smoked bacon|
|Poached eggs||Tea-steeped soft-boiled eggs|
|Thai basil and lemongrass||Spinach|