I fell in love with Wagamama when I visited the Cardiff branch around two years ago to review their new Autumn/Winter menu (read my first restaurant review at Wagamama here).
Established over 20 years ago, Wagamama is an international pan-Asian restaurant chain inspired by the fast-moving ramen bars of Japan, with a big focus on freshly cooked food. The restaurant’s philosophy is ‘kaizen’, meaning ‘good change’ and the chefs are constantly looking for new ways to improve their dishes.
Visiting Wagamama in Cardiff last week with my friend Sarah, I couldn’t wait to find out what changes lay in store for us on the new Summer menu.
The launch is part of St David’s shopping centre’s summer-long celebration of food, with the launch of Eat Club, an exclusive online club with the latest news, events and recipes. Events such as these will be available to attend by club members in the coming months. You can sign-up for Eat Club here.
Arriving at Wagamama at around 7pm, we were greeted by restaurant manager, Eric and escorted to a table in the center of the dining area. Although it was only a Thursday, the restaurant was fairly busy and the atmosphere was lively.
As we pondered over the menu, Sarah ordered a coke (£1.50) and I ordered the super green juice to drink (regular; £3.50); a freshly-juiced concoction of apple, mint, celery and lime. This was really refreshing and it was a much healthier choice than my usual glass of wine. I did have to keep stirring it with the straw though, as the apple had a tendency to settle in a thick layer on the surface, while the rest of the juice turned clear.
To start, we ordered the pulled pork gyoza (£5.90) and the stuffed tempura mushrooms (£4.95). The stuffed tempura mushrooms tasted just as good as they sound; shiitake mushrooms stuffed with prawn and garlic in a light tempura batter. They were hot, juicy and succulent and the garlic wasn’t too overpowering, while the spicy dip was the perfect accompaniment. I wouldn’t hesitate to order these again.
We chose to have the pulled pork gyoza steamed, but you could also order them fried. The portion included five generously-filled dumplings, served with either a dipping sauce or a broth. We opted for the sauce, containing soy sauce and lemon grass.
The dumplings were warm and tender, the pulled pork literally falling apart in our mouths. The smoky flavour of the pork paired well with the sweet soy sauce.
For my main course, I couldn’t resist the sound of the beef massaman curry (£12.95); marinated beef with sweet potatoes shiitake mushrooms and baby aubergine in a mild, fragrant massaman curry sauce, served with a side of steamed rice.
This has a creamy, yet spicy flavour. It wasn’t burn your mouth off-hot, but it certainly had a degree of heat to it. The beef was incredibly tender and although I’ve never eaten sweet potato in a curry before, I’ll definitely be using it in the ones I make at home in future! There was nothing that I didn’t like about the beef massaman curry, although it is a little over-priced at almost £13.
Normally, Sarah would have ordered the teriyaki chicken donburi (steamed rice) for her main, but she decided to opt for the lamb teriyaki (£14.95) for a change; grilled teriyaki lamb with mushrooms, asparagus, kale and mangetout served on a bed of soba noodles in a pea, herb and wasabi dressing.
Cooked medium-rare, the lamb was served pink and looked delicious, although if you prefer your meat to be well-cooked I am sure that the restaurant would be able to accommodate this. The kale and mange tout tasted fresh and crunchy and the wasabi dressing was just the right heat and consistency.
To accompany our main courses, Sarah and I shared a portion of wok greens (£4.35). We tried these out the last time we were at Wagamama and we loved them! Wok greens consist of tender stem broccoli and bok choi, stir fried in fresh garlic and soy sauce. It tasted just as fresh and tasty as it usually does, although we would have liked it if the wok greens had been brought out at the same time as our main courses, as opposed to inbetween our starters and main courses.
Feeling a little thirsty again after my meal, I ordered another of Wagamama’s fresh juices. This time I opted for the clean green juice (regular; £3.50), a combination of kiwi, avocado and apple. This had a sweet, smooth taste and I preferred it to the super green juice. It didn’t seem to settle as much, although the frothy surface on the top of the juice did go a little brown as the avocado began to react with the air.
We were feeling so full after our main courses that we almost didn’t order dessert – almost – until we caught a glimpse of the dessert menu and there was no going back then!
Both struggling to decide on just one of Wagamama’s delectable puddings, we agreed to share two desserts. We began with the passion fruit cheesecake (£5.75). The sharp, tropical flavours of the passion fruit sauce on top of the cheesecake contrasted well with the smooth, creamy vanilla layer.
Our second dessert was taking a while to arrive and so Eric kindly brought us over some sweet onigiri (£4.95) to try. These balls of sticky fried rice had been rolled in dry coconut, deep fried and rolled in sugar. They tasted just like coconut-flavoured doughnuts – mmm! The passion fruit dipping sauce was a good match, although the onigiri tasted great without this.
A few minutes later, our second choice of dessert emerged from the kitchen in the form of banana katsu (£4.95). This included a banana deep-fried in panko breadcrumbs, served with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream. The panko breadcrumb layer was indulgently crispy, filled with soft, hot banana. As for the ice cream, this was smooth and creamy and I could really taste the salted caramel, without it becoming too overpowering.
Once again, Sarah and I had a wonderful time at Wagamama. My favourite things about the restaurant are its focus on fresh food, cooked to order and the somewhat healthy nature of most of the dishes on the menu (especially in comparison to most other restaurant reviews I undertake!) – what better excuse to pay Wagamama another visit!
Unit 1, Library Building
14 Mill Lane
(029) 2064 1564
I was invited to Wagamama as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review.
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