It was one of those hot and sticky, unbearable summer days in London, when I was first introduced to Wagamama, nearly a decade ago with by friend Veronika. The cool air and slurpy noodle soup, served at communal tables, with endless green in a Soho basement was manna to our overheated souls.
Dumplings, Udon Noodle Soup with Chicken, Edamame beans - this was the ultimate comfort food, it was healthy, zesty, fresh and exciting. Since my first experience of Wagamama, it became my go to restaurant in any time I came down to London from Oxford. High days and Holidays, were celebrated there. Tears were shed over breakups, words were spoken, business meetings held, quick dishes snatched on the way to here or there and laughter aided by plum wine rolled out of our mouths. It was without doubt one of my favourite restaurants.
Whenever I came back to Belfast, I used to dream longingly of bowls of noodles with cubes of tofu, skewers of chicken in light spicey peanut sauces, miso soup and pickles. I would talk to anyone who would listen about this fantastic fast food restaurant, that was both healthy and indulgent. A place to get nutritious, light, delicious and fresh dishes, in a relaxed calming atmosphere. I longed for a Wagamama to open in Belfast.
Until that time I worked my way through the cookbook.
Then it happened - Wagamama opened in Belfast's Victoria Square. I was there on the very first day with my workmates in TV, and I still have my T-shirt to prove it. We dined on edamane beans tossed in a fierce chilli salt, Chop Salad, bowls of miso soup, Chilli ramen, Yaki Soba, and yasia pad thai.
When I was asked to visit Wagamama, and write about the Belfast restaurant on my blog, I was delighted to accept the invitation.
The starters are among my favourite dishes on the Wagamama menu. There is a great selection, and ordering three or four, some noodles, a bowl of rice and a miso soup can be a meal in itself, and a very tasty one.
The night we visited Wagamama in Belfast we had a selection of the following starters - chicken tebasaki, (wings in a sticky sauce), negima yakitori (chicken skewers with scallions), wok fried greens, yasai gyoza, and duck gyoza. The gyoza which are a steamed rice dumplings, with a soy and chilli dipping vinegar, where our favourites, followed closely by the wok fried greens, which had that perfect combination of crunch, and slightly oily soy sauce, with a dusting of black and yellow seasame seeds. The chicken skewers were made with thigh meat and had a depth of flavour that was perfectly complimented by oily crunchy scallions.
As the dishes come from the kitchen when the food is ready, its possible to graze through several starter plates, without realising. This makes for a very relaxed style of eating, that is infinitely enjoyable.
My main was yasai chilli men - wholewheat noodles in a spicy chilli soup, with lightly steamed veggies - red onions, courgettes, peppers, topped off with lime and corainder and cubes of fried tofu (I'd prefer the tofu to be steamed, not fried). It is a light dish, that is surprisingly filling. Lemongrass provides a depth of flavour to the stock, chilli brings heat and soy a saltiness that keeps you going back for more. Overall the taste is zingy and fresh, with a juxaposition between the crunchy veggies, and the slippery noodles. It is a dish that I could eat again and again, and again!
Beef Fillet Teriyaki soba, came rare with curry oiled noodles, and springy beansprouts while the chicken katsu curry a sweet thick curry was served with a light pickled salad, and sticky rice.
Freshly squeezed juices - apple, orange and ginger, unlimited green tea and glasses of water quenched the thrist that we worked up from the salty dishes.
The light airy room, gives a calming atmosphere, and the shared benches and tables make the dining experience relaxed and funky. The food is colourful and beautifully presented, which immediately makes it more fun to eat.
Wagamama is a fast healthy food and a restaurant that I know will remain one of my favourites.
Have you been to Wagamama - what was your favourite dish?
That's it for now ...
Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable