WAGAMAMA (766 King West, at Tecumseth, 416-603-0369). Complete meals for $13, including all taxes, tip and a tea. Average main $5. Open Monday to Friday 8 am to 5 pm, Saturday 9 am to 5 pm, Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier free. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Some restaurants have no common sense, their reach always exceeding their grasp, their dishes ill-conceived or compromised, their lifespan supported by blood, sweat and beers. Not so Wagamama, which knows it's better to waltz with style than to foxtrot, tango, booty-shake and hustle at the same time.
Wagamama displays rare restaurant wisdom by doing more with less. In the savoury department there are just four sandwiches ($4.95), three salads ($5 to $5.95) and a soup of the day ($3.50). As a result, there aren't many missteps.
The soup and and roast veggie sandwich combo ($7.95) starts off with a big Japanese-style earthenware bowl of ham, corn and egg white in broth. This is warming, enjoyable autumn fare, with ham arguing for salty while corn rebuts with sweet. The sandwich, with sweet potato, zucchini, tomato, basil and mozzarella, is nudged above merely healthy by its general freshness and its sweetish vinaigrette.
The star at Wagamama is the house-made whole wheat bread. You could probably enjoy a sandwich of raked leaves between these beautiful thick square slices. The tuna salad ($5.95) is, like the sandwich, fresh, made with care and benefits from its sesame dressing, but it's not very exciting. And that's fine, because a lot of T.O. office workers would give their right love handle for a lunch this healthy and tasty at this price.
Even on a quiet Sunday afternoon, quality and freshness mark Wagamama's made-from-scratch baked goods. The large, lumpy Wagamama cookie ($1.25) is a sweet, chewy high-fibre delight.
More sophisticated is the precise wedge of mango cake ($4.25), its three layers of genoise divided by mango buttercream and topped with a shimmering coat of mango jelly.
Bread-and-butter pudding with toffee sauce ($3.75) outperforms many offerings you'll pay double for in some haute-shot joint. The blondie ($3.80) is a fine fudgy bake-sale square, and croissants are also flaky winners. However, while the pecan tart has a good crust, the filling is too sweet.
The staff actually know what they're doing and do it cheerfully. Bonus points for the room, which could be hard and cold but strikes a nice balance between homey and efficient.