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post 21 on Thursday 19th April 2007 at 14:56

Wagamama v. Etsuko

So close, yet so far apartEver since local Japanese noodle bar Etsuko opened some years back I’ve been an avid supporter and oft-times regular customer. Having also been a distant appreciator of international noodle bar Wagamama, you'd expect I’d be the sort of girl to notice a rip off where Japan and noodles are concerned right? Well I didn’t notice; not until I finally got to visit Wagamama in Leeds this weekend.

It would seem that Etsuko has ported the entire Wagamama ethos to the (as yet) Wagamama-less North East. The minimalist-styled menus look identical - even down the choice of font. Presentation, choice on the menu, speed; everything identically perfect for both. But in a wild twist of honesty, I claim that the chain-free, no-added-corporate-darling Etsuko is the better choice for the noodle connoisseur and for the kids who just love to go local. The food tastes fresher and the spring onions don’t carry that two-days-ago-chopped taste. The noodles are squishier too (how’s that for a gastro-review?) So how does Etsuko get away with it? And why didn’t anyone spot this belligerent imitation before? Maybe Etsuko is Wagamama, and in a North Eastern dialect Wagamama translates roughly into "I'm going to make love to your mam, like", and so the hunt for a suitable name was somewhat influenced by the need to choose something distinctly oriental in order to appeal to a different clientele: "Etsuko" seems to be a Japanese person name and means absolutely nothing in any language making it as good a non-descript yet incontrovertibly-oriental noodle bar name as you're gonna get. Its strange newness to the North East was reflected in how bare the place was when it first opened its doors. I’m sure the layout had something to do with it - too much like a school canteen - "you’re saying I have to sit next to a stranger?!" And maybe the bleak amount of traffic was testament to an overzealous vegetable-to-meat ratio, not to mention the proximity of the restaurant to three of the nation’s favourite cop-out restaurants; Nando’s, Pizza Hut and McDonalds’s. But still, Etsuko seems to go from strength to strength, and with the opening of the most excellent mima at the start of the year (and thus beckoning an influx of avant-gardettes who'll cross through this prime Middlesbroughian location) no doubt Etsuko will continue to flourish. And I do hope so because not only is it the definitive place to get fed a decent meal out around here but the staff are a total dream! One server actually remembered the mushroom allergy I’d explained to him during an earlier visit! So thumbs up to Etsuko, regardless of their blatant corporate plagiarism.

Did I forget to mention that they have a Maneki Neko with a wagging paw at the beautifully decorated counter? Not that I'm swayed...

tags: [ culture ] [ vegetarian ]
post 48 on Friday 28th December 2007 at 20:57

Returning to the Einstein Argument

LOL!Me and my better half have been wiling away the afternoon debating Albert Einstein's alleged vegetarianism. After a small amount of Googling, it transpires that the hairy-chopped genius was in fact vegetarian but, disappointingly, only for the final year of his revered life; although for many years he advocated a vegetarian diet:
"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." and "it is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."

I wonder if the human temperament gains such benefits from goodies like fake sausage rolls, and jelly beans; anyhow, my general theory (which is shared by many others), is that if we all ate foods that were grown and sold in our own vicinity we'd do OK, and there'd be far fewer starving babies. That includes meat: it would be far more acceptable if cows, pigs, and hens, were killed by your local butcher, some place within walking distance of your spit roaster. But I'm not going to grab the Duraglit to polish my halo just yet: lots of vegetarian foods are mass produced; take Soya for instance (one shudders to imagine the amount of poor field mice killed during the harvesting of Soya, which is enjoyed by vegetarians and carnivores alike). But, meat just happens to be one of the food products that suffer the greatest volume of mass production, especially with McShitbags et al. I'm not even going to start on the rainforests.

To put the record straight once and for all, the reason I went vegetarian boils down to not enjoying meat enough to warrant killing animals and bestowing the entire world with the ensuing consequences. For all the outcomes of vegetarianism: less environmental strain, reduced animal cruelty, less food miles, better health, no starving babies, etc, it was also a healthy dose of the ideas presented by this image, which sums it up perfectly.

PS, Was Einstein Vegetarian? and Was Hitler Vegetarian? may satisfy any faintly lingering curiosity.

tags: [ domestics ] [ einstein ] [ fake meat ] [ rants ] [ vegetarian ]