Well here's a little confession for you... before this visit I've never really been a big Wagamama fan. I've never had a bad experience there but it's always been a bit of an unplanned we need some fuel so let's stop here destination. I always found the menu a little overwhelming to be honest and was a little unenamored with just reams of noodle dishes and so I was extremely pleased to hear that a new Summer menu had been launched, much paired down and with much more variety. My lovely friend Sophia of Tattooed Tealady asked me to go along with her to try the new selection at the Highcross restaurant in Leicester and naturally I couldn't turn that offer down!
We arrived mid afternoon missing the busy lunch rush and were offered a choice of areas to sit. It seemed silly not to take advantage of the lovely floor to ceiling windows and so we sat right next to one where we could watch the world go by while we ate (and get some nice lighting for our photos). This great expanse of light all around the restaurant just adds to the clean, minimalist and happy feel of the place which was then increased tenfold by the arrival of the wonderful Robin who looked after us during our visit.
While we perused the menu we had a few drinks to quench our post-shopping thirst. I started with the Peach Iced Tea (my favourite drink) and Sophia tried one of the juices that Wagamama are know for. Miss S went for the Tropical Juice which was a refreshing blend of mango, apple and orange and then I went for it too and tried the Clean Green which is a really delicious blend of apple, kiwi and avocado. It may sounds odd to have avocado in a drink but it works somewhat like an egg white in a cocktail and adds a delicious silkiness and richness which plays perfectly with the sweet acidity of the apple and avocado. As the juices come room temperature we both added ice to chill them down a little, but this is really a matter of preference and no ice is added during the making of them so as not to water down the flavour or dull the nutrients.
To start we both heade straight for the gyoza which are another of my absolute favourite eats. I've only ever tried steamed gyoza befor and so it was interesting to try them deep fried. I went for the prawn version and Sophia went for the duck. Both were cooked perfectly and weren't oily at all as can sometimes be the case with fried treats. They were nicely crisp on the outside and with a generous flavourful filling, mind containing juicy chunks of prawn and thinly shredded greens. Each serving gives five gyoza and each comes with its own dipping sauce making the perfect start or side dish for your meal.
Then came the mains. We both had a bit of a hard time choosing as there were so many lovely options, but I was determined not to go for noodles this time around. I narrowed my choices down to either a Cha Han Donburi (a big bowl of fried rice with prawns, chicken, egg and vegetable with a side of Japanese pickles) or the Yakitori Duck. Robin had no hesitation in recommending the duck and I'm so pleased that he did as it was just spectacular. A pile of lovely fluffy white rice was topped with shredded duck leg that had been grilled to perfection leaving the meat tender yet deliciously caramelised. Alongside was a shredded cucumber, mooli, coriander and mint salad and some pancakes to wrap it all up in; and a little dish of the most perfect citrus yakitori sauce. I much prefer this to the usual sticky and overly sweet plum sauce that accompanies duck pancakes and the touch of mint in the salad worked so so well with the rich duck. I also tried adding some rice to my wraps with a little shake of the wonderful spiced rice seasoning that sits on every table and that was incredibly yummy too. The portion size was very generous and I was feeling pleasantly well fed by the end of it.
Sophia decided to go for the Teriyaki Beef Soba and added some extra prawns. I do love how happy the team are for you to change things up an personalise your dish by swapping the type of noodles or adding extra ingredients. I know that this is a good dish as Sophia just couldn't stop raving about it, a lovely mix of beef, soba noodles and vegetables fried in curry oil and then tossed with teriyaki sauce and garnished with sesame seeds. I'll definitely be giving this one a go myself some time soon!
After all this delicious savouriness our palates were craving something sweet and so the arrival of the dessert menu was most welcome, especially as neither of us knew that Wagamama even did puddings! I could happily of tried everything on there but when I spotted that one of the Mochi ball flavours was black sesame I knew that was the one for me. Black sesame ice cream is so unusual but so so delicious, I first tried it in a teppenyaki restaurant in Nottingham and I highly suggest you give it a try if you get the chance! The mochi balls themselves are like a soft, sweet gelatinous shells made of rice flour that are then filled with something yummy. Usually this would be something like red bean paste which I'm usually not a fan of but Wagamama have been very clever and swapped the usual pastey interior for delicious ice cream! Along with the black sesame the flavours we had were raspberry and coconut, all served on a nice drizzle of chocolate sauce that worked wonderfully with the three different fillings. This is a perfectly sized dessert and doesn't leave you feeling stuffed to your gills but delivers that sweet kick that rounds off a meal beautifully. I also had an espresso which was very very nice - I always do this as I think a good restaurant should always serve good coffee.
So what do you think, will you be checking out the new menu soon too? This visit really impressed me and I'm pleased to finally get the hype surrounding the chain! I can't wait to head back with the husband soon as I know he'll fall head over heels for that Yakitori Duck!
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