*Our meal was provided free of charge, however, all opinions are my own as always
Wagamama is somewhere that I like to visit often, especially with Adam and the girls. It’s our go-to chain restaurant when out and about and we each have our staple favourite dishes. Recently, the team at the Spinningfield’s branch in Manchester got in touch and asked if I’d like to try out the new summer menu.
I’d heard a lot about the Wagamama plant-based offerings this year, especially their Avant Gard’n kokoro bowl featuring the world’s first ‘vegan egg’, created in collaboration with vegan chef and social media star, Gaz Oakley.
In fact, it transpired from a recent chat that some of my vegan friends are actually opting to dine at Wagamama over more high-end restaurants due to the larger variety of options available to them.
Wagamama have also had a bit of a makeover at the Spinningfields branch (well, since my last visit at least) and now offer cosy booths alongside their usual communal-style seating, which is great if you fancy something a little more intimate.
Chicken and prawn gyoza
Is it even a trip to Wagamama if you don’t have gyoza? I think not. For those of you that don’t know, gyoza are Japanese dumplings, typically filled with meat and/or vegetables wrapped in a thin dough. We started with these firm favourites to kick off our meal – the soft, steamed chicken ones for Adam and the crispy, fried pieces of prawn filled goodness for me.
Pork belly, panko apple and sriracha hirata steamed buns
These small, fluffy Asian buns are stuffed with pork belly, panko apple and sriracha served with coriander and mayonnaise. I’d tried the beef version of these previously and sang their praises afterwards but Adam was yet to give them a go; he decided to try the pork ones and was also converted.
Bang bang cauliflower (vg)
The first time I tried bang bang chicken was from a little food stall in Camden Market after being drawn in by the free samples and croaky karaoke (if you know, you know). This crispy, wok-fried cauliflower coated in firecracker sauce was served up with less musical flair than my previous bang bang experience but won hands-down on the flavour side of things. Plenty of heat with a sweet and salty kick.
Avant Gard’n kokoro bowl (vg)
The piece de resistance was made up of barbecue-glazed seitan served with a coconut and sriracha vegan ‘egg’, grilled shiitake mushrooms and asparagus on a bed of brown rice, topped with edamame beans, carrots and spring onions, dressed with a sweet amai sauce and garnished with sesame seeds and fresh lime.
The egg is less of a traditional dairy egg (our server stressed this point more than once) and more of a novel way to decorate this fresh, colourful dish. Made from a coconut ‘white’ and sriracha ‘yolk’, once the ‘egg’ was mixed with the vegetables and rice, it became a creamy sauce to add a little lubrication to the dish and complemented the other flavours well.
I’d never tried seitan before and Adam and I spent a while trying to place exactly what it reminded us of. Bread was the conclusion, however, it provided a lovely texture and flavour and is a great alternative to meat; made from wheat gluten and packed with protein whilst being low in carbs, it’s pretty good for you too.
Cod mokutan soba
Featuring black charcoal soba noodles in a soy sauce with two fillets of miso-glazed cod, stir-fried bok choi, mangetout, red peppers and spring onions. drizzled with a sweet miso dressing and garnished with fresh ginger and coriander, this was the ‘dark horse’ for me and is something I’ve vowed to order again on our next visit.
Truth be told, I don’t really like fish very much. I asked the server to simply bring out any items on the menu that he’d recommend and viola.
It was both sweet and salty and the portion size was extremely generous too. The sweet miso-glazing helped, alongside the fish being cooked to a point where it flaked as soon I put my fork near it (I never did master the art of using chopsticks). The noodles were plump and grainy and the fresh ginger gave a nice punch.
Wagamama’s iconic chicken katsu curry is Adam’s usual choice whenever we dine there. However, in the name of being a blogger husband and trying new things, he embraced the naked katsu, made with grilled curried chicken on a bed of brown rice, with edamame beans, shredded carrots, dressed mixed leaves and Japanese pickles. served with a side of katsu curry sauce.
We also discovered that the naked katsu contained half the calories of the traditional dish. Of course, it’s impossible to compare the two, given the differences (the chicken in this dish is grilled, rather than coated in fried panko crumbs and the classic sticky white rice has been swapped for brown), however, it’s a great, filling option if you’re looking for something healthy without compromising on flavour.
Matcha and white chocolate cheesecake (v)
This matcha and white chocolate cheesecake is served with vanilla ice cream and finished with chocolate sauce, mixed sesame seeds and fresh mint. Matcha is one of those things that people generally either love or hate.
Personally, I’m a fan and the matcha came through well. So well that I couldn’t taste the white chocolate in this creamy dessert but it was fresh and light, with the sesame seeds providing a nice crunchy texture.
Smoked chocolate and caramel cake (v)
Made up of layers of smoked chocolate mousse, salted caramel crushed biscuits, chocolate fudge brownie and chocolate ganache and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this cake isn’t something you’ll find on any old menu.
It was super thick and indulgent with the smoked chocolate mousse providing a dynamic that I’d never tasted before. Adam declared it his favourite dessert and I didn’t get a look in after that first mouthful but to be honest, one taste was enough for me given how rich it was.
Salted caramel cheesecake (v)
This cheesecake consisted of a salted caramel parfait with a touch of wasabi on a crunchy biscuit base. topped with chocolate buckwheat shards and a salted caramel sauce. Wait, wasabi?! In a cheesecake?! *cue Peter Kay impression*. On paper, it should not work – at all. But it did, and so beautifully well.
It was moreish and tangy with a creamy core and sweet caramel sauce. This cheesecake sent my taste buds into a spin and I could have happily eaten a second portion.
Thank you again to Wagamama, Spinningfields for inviting us along to review the new summer menu.