It's no secret I love Japanese food. Time and time again I return to old faithful wagamama for my favourite Ebi Raisukaree; a fragrantly spiced prawn curry which I've tried to recreate at home. I was invited by my local wagamama to come down and try the new menu additions. Weeks ahead, I already had my eye on the toasted sesame mochi for dessert.
In case you haven't been to wagamama before, where have you been? Just kidding. To fill you in, the decor is modern, the seating is mostly communal and there's a laid back atmosphere. The food is cooked fresh to order and comes when it's ready, and can be adjusted to your spice buds if you ask nicely. Not really, they'll all lovely.
I've always found the staff really helpful and down to earth at any wagamama I've been to - just a really relaxed and friendly vibe. The Leicester one is no different, and they showed me how to use the new qkr app to order extra sides, drinks and desserts at my leisure. Very snazzy!
We began the meal with a freshly made juice each; the Carrot and Ginger and Super Green with apple, celery, mint and lime (£3.50 regular and £4.50 large). Super refreshing and healthy!
As I mentioned, the sides and mains come as and when. To start, we went for a mix of Steamed Pulled Pork Gyoza (£5.95), Sesame Pork Ribs (£6.75) and a Korean Barbecue Beef & Red Onion Hirata Bun (£4.65). I've made gyoza a few times at home but, wow, I need to try them with pulled pork asap. These has just the right amount of bite whilst still retaining that beautiful steamed texture and mouthwatering pulled pork beneath.
The pork ribs were indeed as sticky and sweet as they look, with a fantastic Korean bbq glaze. The bun was almost too good to share. Perhaps a little heavy on the mayo, if that's ever possible, but the beef was flavoursome and tender. The beef and red onion was almost an Asian meets British take on the steamed bun. (Also tried these at home - told you I was obsessed)
For mains we opted for the new Seafood Ramen dish (£13.25) and the Beef Massaman Curry (£12.95) special, or Omakase, which translates as "I'll leave it to you" in Japanese. I especially enjoyed the encouragement of customisation on the menu, explaining the different noodles, accompanying flavours and eating suggestions.
Featuring sea bream, breaded tilapia and grilled tiger prawns in a vegetable broth, alongside pea shoots, wakame and samphire, this was a real rock pool of delight. I loved fishing my way through the delicious seafood ramen with bites of fragrant samphire, which is part of the seaweed family. Wakame, sometimes referred to as sea mustard, has a peppery taste which has that significant savoury umami flavour. The only annoyance with this dish was the king prawns coming in shells; although they looked pretty and I don't mind doing this myself, the hot broth doesn't half hurt your fingers.
The fragrant massaman beef curry was a medley of shiitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes and baby aubergine and served with steamed rice. We loved the addition of sweet potato, which seems to be becoming quite the foodie trend. The curry was satisfyingly mild with a more tomatoey taste than classic creamy coconut massaman. It seemed like it has been really slowly cooked with fall-apart aubergine skin and deliciously tender meat.
Dessert time - and with it came an excuse to use the qkr app. Here you can either join a table or host your own, then order away and pay at the end. Even split the bill quickly and easily too. We scrolled through and ordered Coconut & Toasted Sesame Mochi (£4.95 a plate or mix up the flavours) and the White Chocolate Ginger Cheesecake (£5.95)
These little mochi balls are just divine. Filled with flavour ice cream and coated in an unusual sweet and glutinous shell, the texture is an acquired taste but the filling is certainly a crowd pleaser. I actually found the cheesecake and its dusting of chilli and ginger rather spicy. But then I'm a wimp. I went back and polished off the mochi, to cool my mouth down of course.
It's safe to say we really enjoyed wagamama's new menu offerings. Lots of new Korean inspiration, exciting new desserts and a "make it your own" approach. I liked it a lot, and I'll no doubt be back! Maybe I could even order my dinner in advance with my new app...
Do you have a go-to dish at wagamama? Or have you tried the new additions?
6 highcross lane
Note: We dined as guests of wagamama for purposes of review. All opinions honest and my own.