Did you know that Wagamama sell around 70,000 Chicken Katsu Curry dishes every week! That’s a lot! It’s their most popular dish on the menu and it will most likely stay there forever. It’s probably the easiest and most safe choice to go for but after an educational evening with their Executive Head Chef Steve Mangleshot, I know there’s so many more fun dishes to try.
Wagamama’s summer menu tasting event was held at their newest venue in Leeds, as one of the big six at White Rose shopping centre. It’s a gorgeous venue, much brighter and bigger than the city centre locations and this has an outdoor seating area as well.
We arrived hungry and thirsty which is ideal, so much food and so many nice beers to try. I’ve tried most of the beers before but never Wagamama’s own, in collaboration with the Meantime Brewing Company. Their ginger and lime pale ale (Kansho) spoke to me and I was not disappointed.
Kikku is another pale ale but more risky in its taste with shichimi: a seven spice mix. I wouldn’t be able to drink this on its own or a full bottle of it but it worked really well with some of the spicy dishes. Matt from Fat Dad in Leeds (my plus 1 for the evening) suggested it should only be served in a small bottle or as a shot and I agree.
I’m so happy we got to try the following three sides first. I can happily order sides and go tapas style as my full meal at any restaurant and these three sides are the perfect combination.
Lightly seared, marinated steak, dressed with citrus ponzu and japanese mayonnaise. Served with a side of pickled beetroot and coriander. I like steak, I like mayo, I like citrus flavours, beetroot and mostly so coriander. What’s not to like in this dish, perfect start to the evening!
fried duck, served with a cherry dipping sauce. If the menu mentioned it is cherry dipping sauce I would have ordered it last time I visited. From now on it’s always going to be the duck gyozas for me.
bang bang cauliflower
Crispy, wok-fried cauliflower coated in firecracker sauce. Mixed with red and spring onions and garnished with fresh ginger and coriander. Possibly my favourite dish all night. Cauliflower is a great vegetable and mixed with all these flavours and spice, it’s super scrumptious. The Kikku beer paired really well with this side, adding to the perfect amount of heat for me. I also love the name of the dish which it lives up to. It’s so fun to say – bang bang cauliflower.
Off to a good start, we moved on to try loads of different mains containing a variation of different meats as the main ingredient. Wagamama is so good in the sense you get to choose which meat or vegetarian option you want for most dishes: ramen, rice, curry, donburi, salad etc.
seared nuoc cham tuna
Seared nuoc cham tuna steak on a bed of quinoa with stir-fried kale, sweet potato, edamame beans, red onion and peppers. Garnished with coriander.
I haven’t had many tuna steaks but lately more an more so. It’s nothing like tuna in a tin, forget that thought right now. It also doesn’t taste like the raw tuna you get with sushi, it has more of a steak taste but fresher if that makes sense. Beautifully laid on a bed of vegetables I’d say this is the most fresh and summery dish on the menu.
sticky pork belly
Citrus and teriyaki glazed pork belly with grilled miso aubergine. Served with white rice and garnished with spring onions, ginger and chilli.
Wow, heart melting pork belly that does just that but on your plate and in your mouth. I don’t remember all the ingredients in the sauce but it’s warm and honey sweet in its taste. I didn’t see the point of the rice being served as a side, I would prefer a vegetable side to go with this.
A fragrant, spicy lemongrass and coconut curry with peppers, shiitake mushrooms and baby plum tomatoes. Served with white rice and garnished with spring onions, chilli and coriander.
You can never go wrong with a curry and if you like the Katsu Curry you’ll like this one too. It’s a bit more adventurous with it’s flavours and very fresh.
pad thai salad
Ginger chicken and prawns on a bed of mixed leaves, mangetout, baby plum tomatoes, shredded pickled beetroot, carrot and red onion. Garnished with fried shallots and served with a side of peanuts and a nuoc cham and ginger miso dressing.
I’ve only had pad thai the traditional way, best ever served in the streets of Bangkok, but this salad version works if you’re not feeling the noodles. I would never pick it over a pad thai but the option is there for a lighter meal. The ginger dressing lifts it.
At the end, Steve let us choose a couple of dishes from the menu we’d been eyeing up and would like to try.
Steve’s favourite – grilled duck donburi
Tender shredded duck leg in a spicy teriyaki sauce. Served with carrots, mangetout, sweet potato and red onion on a bed of sticky white rice. Finished with a crispy fried egg, shredded cucumber and spring onions with a side of kimchee.
A fiery mix of mangetout, red and green peppers, onions and hot red chilli. Served with white rice, sesame seeds, shichimi and fresh lime.
short rib ramen
Tender beef short rib served on the bone on top of noodles in a light chicken broth. Finished with a splash of chilli oil, carrots, mangetout, red onion, sweet potato and pea shoots.
My favourite of these three being the latter. Such a homey and comfort food taste. The short rib looks stunning resting on top of the ramen noodles and vegetables. I was surprised not to like the firecracker all that much. It’s the same spice and sauce as bang bang cauliflower but it was too hot and tasteless. The firecracker sauce need something (cauliflower) to take away the hotness for me to enjoy the flavours.
Dessert I write. Yes, to end the evening we were treated to Steve Mangleshot’s best kept secret – Katsu Curry Ice Cream – and it was spot on!
It doesn’t sound it but trust me, it’s so nice. The sweetness form the coconut ice cream mixed with the saltiness from the peanut sauce, match in heaven! If you think about what you’re eating – don’t! Close your eyes and enjoy. Sadly it’s not available on the menu but I’m sure if you ask nicely they’ll serve it you. I do think it has a good chance outnumbering the weekly servings of the Katsu Curry.
What do you think of Wagamama? If you’ve not been before, would you give it a chance after reading this post? Tell me, would you dare order the dessert?