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wagamama is famous for bringing its Japanese style food and eating to the UK, and wagamama in Reading delivers this exactly as you would expect. The very high ceilings and mix of bench seat tables sets this in a style of its own.
The tables are laid out with large paper placemats showing a picture of a dish for top down, so you can see easily the most popular dishes and their sizes right in front of you. Funnily, most people only notice this after they have eaten! Your order is written down in front of you on your placemat, so there is no confusion when the food is served. Great for bigger parties or forgetful children.
wagamama have introduced a range of new menu selections offering some classic Japanese preparations to appeal to a more western palette. I decided to visit with my daughter and Anna, a Vegan friend, knowing that there would be good things she could eat.
Knowing the large portion sizes, we skipped starters, although my vegan friend ordered a side dish of goma wakame salad to go with her main. This is made up of carrot, onions, dressing and seaweed, and was so good she didn’t want to share!
When we ordered, we were given the option of having the food delivered to the table as if was ready. So skipping the more formal option of waiting until everyone had their dish we chose this option; it certainly get people talking about the dishes as they come out.
I ordered the wagamama chilli ramen beef, a good basic ramen dish. You could also order it in chicken, and it comes with noodles, beansprouts, red onions and nicely hot chillis. There was a lot of beef, cut into large chunks, and it is very much a meal in itself. It is what you expect of it and does not disappoint.
I also was given a bowl of wagamama kare lomen prawns, which has returned to the menu by popular demand. It is ramen noodles in a thick spicy coconut and lemongrass soup (more like a sauce) with beansprouts and cucumber, loaded with prawns.
Simply superb, and once tried I would order this on its own next time.
My daughter ordered the wagamama grilled duck ramen, a new dish on the menu. The ramen noodles and soup was topped with boneless duck leg that broke up easily using the supplied chopsticks. The chilli and spring onions added a certain warmth, but not so strong as to overpower the delicate duck flavour. You can see from the picture how much my daughter liked it.
Anna chose the wagamama salen soba vegetarian. Made with whole wheat noodles in vegetarian soup, it is topped with fried tofu, beansprouts, courgettes, asparagus, leeks and mushrooms. She found it a bit lacking in flavor, the wheat noodles seeming to have taken the flavours out of the vegetables, and on reflection says she would choose a rice based dish next time. She can be so fussy at times!
And as wagamama is all about enjoying food and good company, you can eat it how you like:
All the desserts were easy to share if you wanted to. We ordered two, but had cutlery enough for all without asking. Great for when your fellow diner’s choice looks better than yours.
The white chocolate and ginger cheesecake was a smooth slice, dressed with white chocolate and dusted with cinnamon, the aroma of which filled the table. A slight chilli toffee sauce complemented the chocolate.
The sweet ginger and apple gyoza came with a side dish of vanilla custard. Dipping each fluffy bite into the cream expanded the flavours yet kept the pastry light and dry. The filling of ginger and apple combined with the cinnamon to give this an almost mince pie feel – in fact I joked with my daughter that they were Japanese mince pies. Five separate cakes on the plate allowed us to share, and then argue over who had the last one.
The range of drinks is very good, catering for adults and kids, and includes Japanese beers and healthy soft drinks that look like a meal in themselves. My daughter chose the diet coke (grrr) Anna went for the super green juice of apple, mint celery and lime. I chose a Japanese Iki Yuzu light beer!
There is also a good assortment of teas, from traditional English to Liquorice and Mint, are supplied to wagamama by TeaPigs, which not only guarantees its fresh taste, but allows for a wider range of the exotic. After lunch, Anna choose the lemon and ginger, was very happy with it, describing it as a great way to finish a meal.
Wagamama is a great experience, and definitely a place to go whether you are a teenager or an adult. Prices are around £20 per person for a main, dessert and a drink, so good value. It really suits couples or groups of friends; you want to be able to eat and slurp without worrying about how you look. And don’t wear your best shirt until well versed in using the chopsticks.
Don’t forget that right now you can win £40 of wagamama vouchers so that you can go and try out the new menu for yourself.
Disclaimer: I was offered some vouchers to enjoy a complimentary meal at wagamama, but all views expressed are my own.