It’s been a good two years since I’ve eaten at this popular Japanese chain restaurant, known for its quickly prepared rice and noodle dishes that are whisked away to long communal tables.
I remember my first visit to Wagamamas when they opened their first Manchester venue at the Printworks way back in 2000. They now boast over 100 UK restaurants.
It was to the branch at Leeds White Rose Centre that I was invited this evening. The restaurant is set in an outside food courtyard, right next to an unfortunately now closed Limeyard, a Californian style kitchen which I reviewed when it opened only five months ago. Perhaps the competition was too much for them, being surrounded by the better-known chain restaurants.
After being seated at our table, right next to the sunny window area, we ordered some Japanese beer. I opted for the Kirin Ichiban, a light refreshing beer, whilst Olivia went for a Natsu pale ale, which had subtle passion fruit flavours. Both were delicious if not very different.
It was good to see a completely separate vegan and vegetarian menu, which included a wide range of dishes such as mixed mushrooms + panko aubergine steamed buns, and a vegan twist on the famous Katsu curry, a Vegatsu which used seitan as the key ingredient.
We chose our options from the main menu as some of the meat and fish dishes caught our attention. The two main dishes we went for were the Wagamama Ramen and the Steak Bulgogi.
A Ramen is one of those comforting dishes, surprisingly so in both winter and summer. The Wagamama Ramen consisted of grilled chicken, seasoned pork, prawns and mussels on top of noodles in a rich chicken, miso and dashi broth. Garnishes included half a boiled egg, spring onion, menma bamboo shoots, wakame seaweed and pea shoots. As you can imagine, with all these ingredients the flavours were dancing around in our mouths.
For those of you who don’t already know, Bulgogi means ‘fire meat’, and refers to the way the meat is grilled traditionally on a Korean bbq. Our steak bulgogi this evening was served with miso fried aubergines on a bed of soba noodles, a sesame bulgogi sauce, spring onions, kimchee (pickled cabbage), another half a boiled egg and coriander. It was fresh and tasty, but for me, the steak was, unfortunately, a little tough and chewy. That was the only negative feedback I have about the entire evening.
Our side was Tama Squid, a new item on the Wagamama menu, which consisted of delicately crispy fried squid balls. They were served with an Okonomiyaki, a Japanese sweet and sour sauce, mayonnaise, Aonori (Seaweed) flakes and Bonito (dried tuna shavings). These were deliciously more-ish, so I didn’t enjoy sharing them!
Our meal didn’t finish there, because out came our Banana Katsu, deep fried Banana in Panko breadcrumbs with salted caramel ice cream. It was indulgent, yes, and pretty good!
Wagamama also does a wide range of gluten-free dishes which include noodles and salads, as well as something for the kids.
The standard of service was just as I remembered. Our efficient waiter took the time to recommend a spicy chilli sauce to mix in with our Ramen, which finished the dish off sublimely.
Price wise, noodle, rice and salad main courses will set you back £10-15, with starters and sides somewhere between £4-£7. This is certainly more than you would pay at other lesser known independent Asian noodle places in Leeds, but Wagamama is after all a restaurant, and with this in mind I don’t think the prices are unreasonable. Portion sizes are large and you certainly leave satisfied!