I had never been to Wagamama before I went last week with my sister and her boyfriend when I spent the weekend at their new house. I was previously put-off by the names of the dishes as I had no idea of what they were! However, it made a difference going with people who have been previously and know what some of the dishes consist of and have recommendations from friends.
The restaurant we went to is located just outside the Chapelfield shopping centre, just minutes away from Norwich market. This Wagamama also has an outside terrace and outside seating at the front of the entrance. The seats inside the space are mainly set out in benches which added to the social aspect of the restaurant, which I feel, created a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere.
Wagamama pride themselves on providing fresh, lively food with soul. At Wagamama they believe in the philosophy of kaizen. I first heard of this term in my Business A-Level in the context of production and quality control. If I remember rightly, the Kaizen approach was to ensure continuous improvement in the production line, ensuring efficiency. Kaizen in this sense means ‘good change’.
This philosophy sits right at their heart, shaping every dish they create. This is said to push them to find better ways in all that they do. I admire them for forever creating and making things better, refining their recipes. The chain is inspired by fast-paced, Japanese ramen bars and aim to celebrate Asian food. I really believe that they have created a unique way of eating, bringing the fresh, nourishing, flavours of Asia.
Customers can pick from all kinds of rice and noodle dishes, alongside fresh salads and shareable sides. There are also desserts, fresh juices and hot drinks. The menu features many Japanese favourites.
My sister’s boyfriend opted for a starter of duck gyoza which was one the dishes recommended by their friends. He wasn’t really sure what it would be but when it arrived, it consisted of five fried duck dumplings served with a dipping sauce: soya sauce. The dumplings were almost the texture and appearance of pancake batter.
For his main, he chose grilled duck ramen as he was craving a ramen all day. This was tender, shredded duck splashed with citrus ponzu sauce on top of noodles in a light vegetable broth. It was dressed with chilli, pea shoots, spring onions and coriander.
My sister selected the chicken katsu curry that she gets every time she visits. This dish was chicken coated in crispy panko breadcrumbs, covered in an aromatic curry sauce served with sticky rice and a side salad. I was in some ways very surprised that she ate this because the sauce was even too spicy for Wez, her boyfriend who likes spice!
I was very amazed that when I walked in the restaurant, they handed me a separate vegetarian and vegan menu. This made picking a dish to have much easier, but also in some ways harder because there was so much choice on the menu. This menu has been designed around the idea that meat free shouldn’t mean taste free, which is something I love. In the end I selected the shiitake donburi which was shiitake mushroom and broccoli omelette served on brown rice in a teriyaki sauce. It was also garnished with shredded carrots, spring onions, pea shoots and chilli.
I was in some ways surprised because the food comes out when it is ready, rather than waiting for each dish on the table to be made and then brought out together. Although I had to wait a couple of minutes after the other two got their meals, I would rather wait knowing that the food is freshly prepared, cooked and served fresh. This means that the colours and aromas, flavours and spices are always at their best when they reach the table.
The food was warming, nourishing with the sauce giving it a slightly sweet flavour. I also love how the menu is adjusted seasonally to match what foods are in season at that time. I found the chopsticks very hard to use, so in the end I opted for a fork and spoon instead. Without a knife I struggled cutting up the tenderstem broccoli, let alone trying to cut through meat!
Off the veggie menu, I also was tempted by the yasai pad thai: rice noodles in an amai sauce with tofu, egg, beansprouts, leeks, chilli and red and spring onions, garnished with fried shallots and peanuts. The harusame glass noodle salad which is glass noodles mixed with tofu, kale, edamame, adzuki beans, mangetout, blackened carrots and pea shoots, also sounded yummy. Lastly, I was close to trying the yasai katsu curry which was similar to my sister’s main; I was just worried about the spiciness of the sauce. This one was sweet potato, aubergine and butternut squash coated in crispy panko breadcrumbs, covered in the curry sauce and served with sticky white rice and a dressed side salad.
If you have also been too worried to try out Wagamama, I would really recommend visiting as they really do have something for everyone. The staff were very friendly and were more than willing to make adjustments for customer requests. I will hopefully be going back to try out more options on the menu in the near future.