Sunday, 22 October 2017

Just Julia tries: Wagamama's vegan & vegetarian menu

We've all seen them, you know, those documentaries about plant based diets and the world of good solely eating these types of foods can do for us. I'm a meat eater, (sorry guys) but I like to think I incorporate a lot of fruit and vegetables into my diet, and I always try to eat at least one or two vegetarian meals a week.

I've got a few vegetarian and vegan friends who, besides their beliefs, have never questioned me about my eating habits, as I have never theirs. If anything, having our foodie differences has made me more and more interested in vegan and vegetarian meals. And what they have shown me is how delicious and colourful these types of foods can be.

I guess I've always been of the mindset that you need to have some sort of protein in your dinner, but that doesn't always necessarily have to be meat. Now, I'll admit, if you're expecting me to report that I've now gone completely vegan, I'm afraid that was just never going happen (yet anyway). However, what I can tell you is that my attitude towards vegan and vegetarian options at restaurants has very much changed thanks to Wagamama's.

It was just last week that I was invited to try out the restaurants newly launched vegan and vegetarian menu. At first, I was a little apprehensive about going as I do eat meat, however I've always enjoyed my time at Wagamama's and thought if I could educate myself a little more about what options are out there for vegans and vegetarians, that I would potentially be more inclined to order a meat-free dish.

When I originally thought of vegetarian or vegan meals, I'd usually associate them with being packed full of vegetables in some sort of broth, and hold little flavour. And I'm glad to say my ignorant views are gone have flown right out the window thanks to the restaurant.

In all honesty, I don't tend to frequent to chain restaurants too often, but when I do, Wagamama's is my place of choice. With fresh ingredients used, dishes made to order, friendly staff and quick service, its a great place to grab something healthy to eat, and fast.

Having launched their vegetarian and vegan menu just two weeks ago, I was excited to challenge myself to try something other than my favourite - the Katsu chicken curry.

When we arrived the restaurant was heaving. Christ were we lucky to have booked.

I love seeing a restaurant in action, I find the buzz of the kitchen and sea's of people chatting over good food quite relaxing - for why, your guess is as good as mine. 

Wagamana's in Union Square always seems to be super busy, and tonight was no different. There was energy in the room and I was eager to sample the food.

To kick things off I gave myself a wee boost with a positive juice smoothie. Made with pineapple, lime, spinach, cucumber and apple, it was creamy in texture and very smooth to drink. My sister decided on a traditional lemonade. 

We scanned the menu (which is completely separate from the original menu - a real bonus to those who have spent time searching for veggie and vegan options on it before), and sought recommendations from Ruta - our server for the night. She talked us through the menu and I decided to take her advice on ordering the Yasai Salma curry.
It didn't take long for my curry to arrive.

The Yasai Salma curry was a great recommendation. The food was bright and eye-catching, and tasted absolutely delicious - it was the perfect dish to replace my usual katsu curry. It had a real kick of spicy lemongrass in it and the tofu, peppers, shiitake mushrooms and baby plum tomatoes were mixed in throughout. On the side was a bowl of white boiled rice and the dish was finished off and garnished with a light serving of spring onions, chilli and coriander.

The vegan coconut curry hit the spot and was much more filling than anticipated. I had to pace myself to ensure Nicole got her food before I ate every last morsel of mine, as I would have been after her's too if not. I really enjoyed this dish, however, the only thing I would have liked a little more of would have been the tofu. The three smaller pieces just needed to be that little bit bigger, or a few more pieces needed to be added. I think with the addition of some more tofu then it would have been perfect.

Up next came the five yasai steamed gyoza dumplings which again, were vegan. The gilled dumplings were phenomenal and one of my favourites of the night. The soy dipping sauce was strong, but didn't overpower the tastes coming from the ingredients inside the dumplings. They were cooked slightly crispy but beautifully soft too. The perfect combination and polished off rather quickly too.
It wasn't long until Nicole's Kare burosu shichimi arrived. Featuring coated silken tofu with grilled mushrooms on a bed of thick udon noodles, this was food heaven for Nicole. She's always loved noodles and Asian food, so it was great to see her really enjoying a vegan version just as much. She'd mentioned to me how filling the dish was, and how it had taken her by surprise as she'd always thought vegetarian or vegan foods wouldn't fill you up as much as meat dishes. We'd both been completely wrong about this.

Her curried vegetable broth was excellent. Swimming in broth, the noodles continued to cook in the bowl and Nicole polished the whole thing off in no time at all. Finished off with an array of pea shoots, chilli, carrot and coriander, it was a great choice.

By this point, I'd ordered my second fruit smoothie - a blueberry spice juice, which had blueberry, apple and carrot in it. The pinch of ginger used gave a full and lasting punch of flavour at the end.
Looking to the vegetarian offering, we'd also decided to order a side of the mixed mushrooms and panko aubergine hirata steamed buns.

The two fluffy Asian buns were stuffed with mixed mushrooms and aubergine which had been lightly coated in panko breadcrumbs which have a light, flaky texture. They came served with a delicious Japanese mayonnaise (the non-vegan part of the dish) and coriander. The mushrooms were juicy and the aubergine was crispy on the outside, and moist on the inside. But, it was the mayonnaise and the fluffy Asian buns which stole the show for me. Utterly scrumptious.
After our mains and sides, we were both pretty full. By this time it was nearing 7.30pm and the restaurant was still heaving, although it was clear the staff had everything under control. 

Ruta talked us through the dessert menu, of which I noticed there were a lot of vegetarian desserts available and not so many vegan desserts. This was where the aspect of quality over quantity kicked   in, and after trying one of the vegan desserts - the pink guava and passionfruit sorbet served with fresh mint - I would happily swap every ice cream for that sorbet any day.

It was everything you would want from a dessert. Refreshing, light, flavoursome and pink. Ok so not every dessert needs to be pink, but it had one of my favourite fruits in it - passionfruit - and was topped with mint leaves. Everything about this dessert was brilliant, and I'd buy it by the tubful if I could.

The chocolate layer cake was also very light. Much more rich in flavour, and of course, very, very chocolatey, it boasted three layers including chocolate sponge, dark chocolate parfait and a layer of hazelnut cream. It was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with a small sprig of mint.

The sorbet was vegan, however the chocolate layer cake was vegetarian. Both were very enjoyable and we shared them both - that's what sisters are for after all is it not!?
Bellies full, we gave our feedback on the new menu to Ruta who had guided us through it with great ease. She knew everything about the dishes we were ordering and was very happy to offer guidance and recommendations too. Our service in the restaurant was faultless, which can be unusual in chain restaurants, and we both thoroughly enjoyed our trip. I love catching up with my sister, but there's no better way than catching up with her than over some tasty food.

A huge thanks to the team at Wagamama, and the manager Livia for inviting us to try out the new menu, I'm sure it's going to be a huge hit!

  For Now...

Just Julia

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