This week, I was invited to Wagamama on Cardiff’s Mill Lane for an exclusive blogger preview evening ahead of the new autumn/winter menu launch on 22nd October.
With restaurants in 16 countries, including over 99 in the UK, Wagamama serves a range of Japanese-inspired food with a focus on fresh, nutritious ingredients. I’ve never been to Wagamama before because it’s never really appealed to me, but I’m not one to say no to free food!
The restaurant is full when I arrive with my guest at around 6.30pm, but several tables have been reserved for the bloggers. We take a seat and help ourselves to some complimentary wine.
Wagamama’s area chef, Karl, introduces himself and explains that he’ll be on hand to talk us through each of the dishes, before bringing out the first course of the night – beetroot, orange and carrot juice (£3.40 regular/£4.40 large).
Now, I’m sure it’s packed with loads of health-boosting vitamins and it’s probably really good for me, but I have to admit it, this juice is pretty foul. The beetroot gives it an earthy taste, but it’s too overpowering and it just ends up tasting a bit… muddy. Perhaps adding a bit more orange juice would help to tone it down.
The second course is grilled duck ramen (£12.95), a vegetable broth with noodles topped with tender boneless duck leg and peashoots, scattered with fresh coriander, chillies and spring onions. Ramen makes for a warm, filling meal when it’s cold outside, and this has to be my favourite dish of the night.
We also get to try the new mushroom ramen (£9.75), containing no less than six different types of mushroom – white cup, beech, chestnut, oyster, king oyster and shitake – along with thai basil leaves and silken tofu. This seems like a really healthy choice, suitable for vegetarians, and the differing textures of the mushrooms make for an interesting touch. I can’t say I’m a big fan of tofu, though.
The mushroom ramen is served with a portion of wok-fried greens (£4.25), tender stem broccoli and crunchy pak choi in a garlic and soy sauce. The portion is actually bigger than it is in the picture above; it’s just looks so tasty, we can’t wait to tuck in before getting the camera out!
Our next dish is the pulled pork gyoza (£5.85), five steamed dumplings stuffed with grilled, pulled pork, served with a spiced black vinegar and ginger sauce. I’ve had these kind of dumplings before, but never with pulled pork in them. It makes for a good combination, although at over £1 per dumpling it’s hardly value for money.
Starting to feel full, I only have a small taste of the next dish, mahi mahi curry (£9.95), grilled mahi mahi fish in a spicy sauce with sweet potato, mixed peppers and mushrooms, served with a dome of boiled rice, garnished with coriander and lime. Named mahi mahi in Hawaiian, this white fish is commonly known as dorado and is found in off-shore temperature, tropical and sub-tropical waters worldwide. I really like the flavour and the subtle heat of the sauce, but the mahi mahi has a strong fishy taste which I’m not keen on.
Before our final course, we try a bottle of new Iki beer (£5.65, 330ml/£12.95, 750ml). Wagamama are the only UK restaurant to serve Iki beer, an unusual mixture of organic tea leaves and yuzu (4.2%) with a savoury umami flavour.
The last main course that we sample is actually a treasured dish that was previously removed from the Wagamama menu, causing a bit of a stir amongst its fans. The kare lomen (£10.25 with chicken/£11.25 with prawns) is a spicy coconut and lemongrass, curry-like soup of ramen noodles topped with grilled chicken or prawns, cucumber and beansprouts, garnished with coriander and lime. My guest finds this a little too spicy for her liking, but it’s the perfect heat for me and I can understand why there was such a fuss when this was taken off the menu before.
With just about enough room left in our tummies, we round off the evening with a delicious hot dessert. Half moon pancakes (£.450) are served with a date and orange puree hidden within the fold, accompanied by a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. All of the bloggers agree that this has a real festive taste to it – the ideal treat for this Christmas!
Wagamama’s new menu launches on Tuesday 22nd October and if you decide to test it out, I particularly recommend trying any of the ramen dishes. A take-out menu and kids menu is also available.
Unit 1, Library Building
14 Mill Lane
(029) 2064 1564
Monday – Saturday: 11.30am – 11.00pm
Sunday: 11.30am – 10.00pm
I was invited to Wagamama for a blogger preview evening ahead of the Autumn/Winter menu launch, and our food and drinks were complimentary.