Wagamama - The Galeries Victoria, Sydney & salsa dancing at Pumphouse Bar (8th July 2011)

Ken, Su Wei and I decided to head out salsa dancing together this evening so met up outside Queen Victoria Building (QVB) near Town Hall station around 7pm for dinner prior to hitting the dance floor. Ken wanted to have Japanese tonight and searching for Japanese restaurants in the area on my iPhone, Wagamama came up in my search results. "Oh yes, let's go to Wagamama," said Ken happily. But Wagamama is NOT Japanese and that was coming from a half-Japanese! "Works for me," smirked Ken and I rolled my eyes as the three of us made our way to The Galaries Victoria (TGV) where the pan-Asian restaurant was located.

On arrival, we had to wait in the queue to be seated. For your information, Wagamama is a restaurant chain and all its branches has roughly the same look and feel - informal setting in the style of a modern Japanese ramen bar, the menu and staff friendliness are pretty consistent. The wait took about 10 minutes and we were shortly ushered to our seats at one end of one of the many the long tables in the restaurant. Looking through the menu a couple of times, I stuck to my usual order of chilli chicken ramen whenever I dine at Wagamama (how unadventurous!). We ordered a main each, a pot of genmaicha tea (combination of roasted rice and green tea leaves, giving the tea a smooth nutty flavour) and entrees of chilli squid (lightly fried chilli squid served with lime dipping sauce) and sweet potato kusabi (hand-cut chips served with basil and wasabi mayo) to share. Hmm, the ramen was not as tasty as I remembered (or maybe I'm just biased to pho these days) and the entrees were alright though all three of us were surprised what the kusabi turned out to be - thinly sliced deep-fried chips (we were expecting chunky cut chips) and it flops over your chopsticks when you pick up a chip i.e. not crispy. Cost $60.50 all up for our dinner after taking 25% off the total bill (yes, another Entertainment Book voucher). I can't really see myself frequenting this place to be honest. The food ain't that great for its price and kind of makes me feel I've just been to an overpriced Asian McDonalds...

Wagamama Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We left the restaurant around 8pm and headed to Pumphouse Bar at Darling Harbour. Once a month on a Friday, the bar holds a salsa night with dancing starting from 9pm till 1am. We were early - there were still diners having their evening meal and though the dance floor has been cleared in preparation for dancing, it was empty. We decided to head in anyway since we were here and Ken got us a round of drinks as we waited for the party to begin. Cost us $15 each in cover charge and we found ourselves a corner on the leather couch where we piled up our belongings and changed to our dance shoes.

The Pumphouse bar is a 2-storey heritage building that was built in 1890 as a pumping station and used as part of Sydney's power infrastructure before the use of electricity. Today, you can come here to enjoy a tapas dinner and sample their wide selection of imported and local hand crafted beers, including the Thunderbolt beer that is exclusively brewed for this bar (which I was not aware of until the writing of this blog post). The DJ began to play Latin tunes around 9pm and more people turned up, most changing into dance shoes shortly on arrival, a clear indication that they were here for the same reason we were - dance salsa. Ken took turns dancing with me and Su Wei, then he left in search of his Linear dancers while I hung back with Su Wei to check out the salsa leads on the dance floor. Hmm, no Cuban dancers in sight so far :/ Oh well, hopefully some will turn up soon...Most of the male leads were Linear dancers who seem to enjoy pulling out fancy moves, many I have forgotten or not learnt - dancing with them would be 'torture' for both of us, the lead frustrated at my inability to follow, and me unable to just enjoy the dance so I just sat and watched while Ken and Su Wei hit the dance floor (Ken and Su Wei are predominantly Linear dancers). Definitely a lot more advance dancers in the scene tonight and for some peculiar reason, I felt my confidence somehow deflated, as if I wasn't good enough for the already now packed dance floor. Hmm, maybe it's time to revisit my Linear skills with classes...

Ken came by to check on me and said he would ask around to see if there were Cuban dancers and send them my way. At some point, the DJ accompanied Ken to see me and he (the DJ) asked me to follow him upstairs where he would put on some Cuban songs and then dance with me. Sweet! Thanks Ken! I followed Mr DJ up a flight of stairs and found more dancers twirling in the small dance space on the 2nd floor. Mr DJ busied himself with his music and I was left waiting, unsure if he was still planning to  dance with me as promised. As I waited over the next 2 songs, I had the opportunity to look down into the main dance floor and watched the dancers. "You, you and you...," I marked these Cuban leads with an invisible 'X'. Yes, finally found a few guys to dance with! Mr DJ was still doing his thing so I decided to give up waiting and turned to head downstairs when an older man grabbed my hand and started dancing with me. He was a Linear dancer and had a habit of going 'ba, bam, bam...bam, bam, ba, bam, bam', chanting out his beats, usually enough to throw me off my steps as it conflicts with the beat of the music but he got it right so it was ok. We had a couple of dances and it seemed that he wasn't going to let me leave the dance floor, continuing on as the next song started so I had to make a run for it when the current song came to an end. Didn't get very far for I was stopped by another dancer for a dance. And he turned out to be a Cuban dancer - awesome! Well-built guy who occasionally gives you a smile, he was great to dance with though has an interesting style of his own which reminded me a lot of some bird dance - chest puffed out and movements lead head first then body follows. "Peacock dancer," I thought to myself, chuckling silently. I'm SO naughty :P

I headed back downstairs and caught up with Su Wei and Ken, only to find another former Wellington salsa dancer, Vincent, standing behind them (and they didn't even know Vincent was there until they wondered who I was waving at behind them and turned around). Our little salsa contingent from Wellington is growing!

Former Wellington-based salsa dancers Vincent, Su Wei and I

The dancing continued, this time on the main dance floor and one guy I danced with looked so much like Scott! Ken, Su Wei and I all agreed, and though he was a Linear dancer, he was still fun to dance with. Oh, but there was a guy who kept coming back to ask me and Su Wei for a dance - he was weak at leading yet wanted to lead complicated Linear moves and tells you off if you did not carry out the move correctly. It was just not enjoyable dancing with him but yet he kept coming back! Su Wei and I literally ran as far as we could or grabbed another dancer when we saw him coming our way (for he wouldn't take no for an answer). It was THAT bad. I also rocked up to my marked men and had at least one dance with each guy. The skinny guy with the fedora had a big smile on his face and was highly impressed with my ability to turn so much - he made me laugh when he pulled off a hat pass in between his moves, putting the fedora on me, and stealing it back when the opportunity came up. I had a couple more dances with 'peacock dancer' and I was sure I started to mimic his dance moves unconsciously so we moved in unison...One guy who came to dance with me wore a glow bangle and put the glow bangle on me instead at the start of the dance which was a strange but sweet at the same time. Here's a short clip with footage of me dancing with 'bangle man' - his name is actually Adrian and his friend wasn't convinced he had rhythm and could dance so took the video as proof:

Rather dark but I'm sure you can work out my silhouette if you follow the glow ;)

Ken and I left for home at 12.15am. God, I'm shattered and my feet hurt, even more so thanks to an Asian chick who stubbed me on my right foot on the dance floor (and yet she still had the cheek to glare at me for her mistake!). A quick pit stop at Hungry Jacks on George St for Ken to pick up a late night snack and then we headed to Town Hall train station where we caught the train home. Finally in bed at 2am after a shower. So tired...


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