The generous guys at wagamama recently invited me over to check out their new menu. As a fan of their food, set-up and brand already I was excited to go along to their fairly new Spinningfields branch to see what’s what.
For those of you who don’t know – wagamama specialise in Asian and Japanese foods, they make it all fresh in their biiiig, open kitchens, and they serve it to your table as soon as it’s ready. In my experience, most of their branches have a lively, buzzing environment. The seating is long, communal wooden benches and the staff are always really helpful.
I’d not been to the this particular branch before. I used to frequent the Tottenham Court Road one, when I worked in London two days a week and would often find myself alone in wagamamas absolutely loving life – ordering up to £30 worth of food as that’s what my expenses would allow. Bit greedy, but no regrets…
As I was Googling some info for this post I discovered the Tottenham Court road site was their first ever, and that it’s closing down soon as they expand in other areas. It’s really great to see an independent brand like these guys flourish; providing jobs for many talented people up and down the country. Their style and food is fresh, vibrant, laid back, wholesome and delicious and you’re always greeted by a friendly face, which is why I always return.
My friend and I (Lucy) were ravenous having saved ourselves for the occasion. So we opted for 3 starters, 3 mains, an alcoholic beverage each and a fresh juice each. Greedy, again… are you noticing a theme here?!
At wagamamas, it’s common practice that when you order, dishes arrive as they are ready, fresh out the kitchen. So your ‘main’ might arrive first and your ‘starter’ or ‘side’ second; or, they might by chance arrive in the traditional order; starter then main. Anything goes. Either way I always find them really quick and efficient. Nobody likes a restaurant that faffs.
The first starter type dish to arrive was this one, their lollipop king prawn kushiyaki – skewers of grilled prawns marinated in lemongrass, lime and chilli. The prawns as you can see were squeezed together and there were six in the portion so it was great for sharing. The caramelised lime gave the dish a vibrant, citrus kick too which was delicious.
Next up were duck wraps – shredded crispy duck served with cucumber and spring onions, served with Asian pancakes (or lettuce wraps for a lighter version) and cherry hoisin sauce. The duck was so tender and there was plenty for two to share, we ordered with the traditional pancakes and had two each. The plum sauce had a gorgeous, fruity kick from the cherries too.
Our final choice from the snacks/starter section was this little bad boy… Korean barbecue beef and red onion hirata steamed bun. An amazingly fluffy bun stuffed with super tender barbecue beef, soft red onion, the most delicious Japanese mayonnaise and fresh coriander. FOOD HEAVEN!
You only get one in a portion, so be warned if you are sharing. They have other steamed bun options which sound incredible too. As I haven’t managed to get back to London to try bao yet, I think is the next best thing and it really hit the spot. Well played, wagamama.
So being the little fatties that we are, we soon after dove into three ‘main’ dishes to share.
First up, steak bulgogi, a new dish on their menu. It’s marinated sirloin steak and miso-fried baby aubergine with soba noodles (made with buckwheat) with a sesame and bulgogi sauce. It was finished with spring onions, kimchee and half a tea-stained egg.
Bulgogi means ‘fire meat’ in Korean, so the dish has an intense, meaty/barbecue flavour. The sourness from the kimchee (fermented cabbage) and the crunchiness from the fresh spring onions really balance it out and the tea-stained egg is just a gorgeous bonus. The meat was pretty lean and soba noodles are a lighter option too, so all in all this was a really well balanced dish.
Next up was the tilapia surendra, a rich, hot and spicy green curry made with tilapia fish, jalapeño peppers, onions and ginger. On top were crunchy sweet potato shreads, served with steamed rice and sesame seeds.
The curry was spicy and the fish was really tender. The rice was great too – fluffy, slightly sticky and soaked up the sauce really well. I’d say a squeeze of fresh lime juice would have finished the dish off really well but that might just be my taste buds. Other than that it was delicious and presented beautifully too.
The chicken kare loman arrived just in the nick of time, a rich coconut, chilli and lemongrass soup, filled with chicken and ramen noodles, topped with cucumber, beansprouts and coriander.
Served in a deep bowl with a large slurrpy spoon and chopsticks, this sort of dish (just like pho or ramen) is really fun to eat. There is something just so satisfying about scooping steaming hot noodles into your face and sucking the soup up off the spoon. The fresh crunch of the veggies work really well too.
So we both opted for a juice and chose the ones above. They arrived pretty much straight away but they were served at room temperature – which was a little off putting. The flavour combinations were great, but with them being so warm they were difficult to enjoy.
I can comment on the beers though, which were ice cold; Lucy had the Iki, and I the Lucky Buddha… both were great, but if we had to choose one, we both said we’d opt for the Iki as it was a little more on the hoppy side. Yum.
The food, restaurant, atmosphere and drinks (with the exception of the juices being on the warm side) were spot on. The food is so fresh, clearly made with quality ingredients and there’s so much flavour and creativity in each dish.
The new additions to the menu are great, although I was slightly disappointed to only see two summer salads on the menu, none of which really captured my imagination. I am seeing lots of recipes online for stunning, vibrant, Asian salads (like these ones one my Pinterest) and I think they would make a wonderful addition to the already fantastic wagamama menu.
If you do eat at wagamama this summer, make sure you tag them @ on Twitter to show them the snaps.