“Wagamama has been serving a bizarre fusion cuisine – part Japanese traditional, part English nursery slop – for nigh on 20 years now. When the first restaurant opened in the early 1990s its exposed kitchens and austere interior design seemed the dernier cri in foodurism. Checking out the T-shirted waiting staff, punching orders into handheld computer terminals, one was convinced that this was exactly the joint where Deckard the blade runner would chow down, were he sent to hunt replicants in London.
“However, nothing is ever so dated as the future – or, as Theodor Adorno put it: ‘The new is the longing for the new, not the new itself.’ And while during the fin de siècle we may have yearned for flying cars and sexy cyberwomen, what the Noughties brought instead was robotic waiting staff and a strange syncretism of occidental consumption and oriental production, which means that there must now be a significant proportion of British yoof who inhabit an entirely Japanese materiality: shopping at Uniqlo and Muji, eating at Wagamama, reading manga comics and fiddling about with Sony netbooks. All while remaining utterly ignorant of Shinto, Buddhism, the films of Akira Kurosawa and the novels of Mishima. Everything has been lost in translation except the profit motive.”
Read the rest of last week’s Real Meals column at the New Statesman here.