Pitched somewhere between your typical Wagas and spa food, the menu offers things like poke (which it calls "Happiness Bowls", 78rmb), healthy bowls with bases of esoteric grains and gym-protein on top (griddled salmon, seared tuna), and a section called sexy sukiyaki which I avoided in protest at the name. Instead I flipped to the egg and beetroot jianbing with a salad and arugula on top (68rmb), to see how the lovable chain has improved on the street-food staple. They have not, apart from making it more colorful. The salmon was nice, cooked sous-vide and then crisped a little in a pan or on a griddle.
The color thing is a theme, and perhaps the defining theme of my visit. The food is Instagram ready, in bright colors that sometimes bleed into the psychedelic, like this red dragonfruit juice.
The beetroot jianbing had a deep purple hue, fringed with a yellow border of egg, and my lunch partner’s seared tuna, the one from the front of the menu, came crusted in green herbs. The rice is black, the frosting on the cakes neon pink. It feels like someone gave the chef a pack of crayons and said “Cook like this.”
It makes sense then that the décor is muted and inexpensive, in gray and pink terrazzo tiles and plywood shoved into service as counter cladding; the focus is clearly meant to be the Crayola colors of the food. Of course, they have nice lighting.
So how was it? Better than a regular Wagas? Eh. It was healthier. It feels like a Wagas 2.0, updated for the paper-straw and quinoa age, spa food made as tasty as it can be, and given a splash from the Pantone world. If it was in IAPM, I’d end up there once a week for a healthy meal that goes beyond salad and is not served with too-loud club music.
Will there be more locations in downtown? What was their vision of the place? Is this just a one-off for L'Avenue?
All questions I'd love to answer, except that when I called the Wagas Bunker HQ to find out, they hung up on me. Twice. I didn't like my salmon enough to keep trying.
Guess there's always these guys.
Funk & Kale, 1/F, L'Avenue, 99 Xianxia Lu, near Zunyi Lu.