Sunday, 8 October 2017

Wagamama Launches Vegan Menu

Since I left the UK in January 2015 the vegan options at chain restaurants have blossomed, with chains like Zizzi's adding vegan menu items and Tofurky launching their range of vegan sandwiches I'm going to be coming back to a country that's a whole lot more vegan friendly. One of the few downsides of travelling is that I don't get to go and eat all of these delicious new things the very second they're launched but when Wagamama contacted me about trying their new vegan menu I decided to do the only sensible thing and pay it forward. After scouring Instagram for Brighton peep's who take excellent photos I found Stevie, @thebrightonvegan, who was more than happy to attend the event on my behalf. Hopefully I'll be bringing you more guest posts as I try to keep on top of the UK's growing vegan scene from a continent far, far away. Over to Stevie...

For some time, the word on the vegan grapevine has been that Wagamama was launching an all new vegan menu. Vague news articles and the occasional insta-story indicated that it was tantalisingly close.


Well friends, it's here. And, oh, it's good.

I was always surprised at how few vegan options were on offer at Wagamama – Asian cuisine is usually pretty veggie friendly – so when the opportunity arose to sample a sneak preview of the new menu at their Brighton restaurant, I grabbed my trusty vegan pal Caitlin and practically broke their door down.

Before we sat down to eat, Karl, the development chef in charge of the new menu, took us through a quick history of its evolution. He was keen to get across how serious they are about keeping vegan food vegan, speaking as enthusiastically about their plans for a dedicated vegan fryer as he did about the menu itself. Honestly, their dedication to doing it properly was heartening.


But the food, what about the food?

Rather than having to order from the giant allergen file brought over by the manager (you know the one), the veggie menu is the same as the regular one, but with the added benefit of not having to trawl through the meat and dairy dishes to find the vegan options.



As diligent (and greedy) reviewers, we ordered three mains, three sides and two desserts between us (it's a tough job):

Kare Buruso Ramen

Silken tofu coated in shichimi (a kind of Japanese seven spice) and deep fried served with mixed mushrooms, veggies and udon noodles in a curried vegetable broth. This dish was designed from the ground up to be their new vegan flagship, and it was absolutely delicious. Fragrant and spicy, it’s like the ramen version of a katsu curry.


The great thing about it is that it’s not just a ‘regular’ meal with some bits taken away to make it vegan; it’s whole, satisfying, balanced and deeply flavourful. Particularly those mushrooms, full of garlicky umami goodness, I could’ve eaten a bowl of those without coming up for air.

Warm Chill Yasai Salad

This was an unexpected favourite. We ordered the salad to freshen things up a bit (plus, we're vegans, it's all we eat right?), but it turned out to be the winner of the evening.


Tofu, fresh veggies and cashew nuts nestling in baby gem lettuce and tossed in a curiously addictive sweet chilli sauce, the zingy freshness really hit the spot. If you’re dining with a friend, splitting this between you is a great alternative, or addition, to the usual sides.

Yasai Salma Curry

Despite being full of fragrant ingredients, this one didn’t pack quite as much punch as the other two. It was pretty good, but maybe a little underseasoned – nothing a splash of soy sauce couldn’t fix. 

Flavoured with lemongrass, coconut and coriander, if you’re a fan of thai green curry, this is the one for you.

Sides

The vegan sides aren’t a great departure from the regular menu. Yasai gyoza, edamame and japanese pickles have always been in my Wagamama order, pre- and post-vegan days. Always a solid combo, and they complemented the main dishes perfectly.


Dessert


At the moment, the dessert selection will be a familiar sight to any vegan that has ever eaten out: Sorbet.

That said, they were pretty good. Out of the two flavours, pink guava and passionfruit or lemon, the former was definitely the best – reminiscent of a more grown up Solero.

We were assured by Harry (who, incidentally, was the friendliest waiter I think I’ve ever met) and Karl, that better things in this area could be on the horizon.

If you’ve been keeping an ear to the ground, you may have heard rumours of a seitan katsu curry coming to the Wagamama vegan offering. The bad news is that it hasn’t been included in this iteration of the new menu. The good news is that we were reliably informed that it is currently being trialled in their test restaurant in London. 

Seeing as Wagamama sells more chicken katsu curry than it does Coca Cola (no, really), you’d think that rolling that one out would be a no-brainer. Here’s hoping.

Wagamama is the latest adopter in the growing trend for bigger, better, more readily available vegan options. No longer doomed to constructing weird pseudo-meals out of side dishes (chips, salad and mediterranean medley anyone?), vegans can look forward to eating proper food at high street chains. With everyone from Pizza Express to Bailey’s and now Wagamama catching on, the future is looking a lot more vegan.

You can find more of Stevie's excellent photos on Instagram @thebrightonvegan and watch this space for more guest posts about vegan eats in Brighton. This post was sponsored by Wagamama, as always all words and opinions are the writer's own. 

7 comments:

  1. I laughed pretty hard at "No longer doomed to constructing weird pseudo-meals out of side dishes (chips, salad and mediterranean medley anyone?)" cos its so true! Everything sounds so delicious, though I'm a little bummed out about the seitan katsu because I love katsu so much!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I always thought it was so sad that they hardly had any options, but this looks amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I hope that Wagamama in Belgium will also expand their vegan options... for the moment they offer just one vegan main: the yasai itame. Luckily I like it, but it would be nice to be able to eat something else for a change. Kare buroso ramen sounds delicious!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'd be stoked if they just started by taking the milk out of the curry sauce!

    ReplyDelete
  5. We need this in the US! I'd be all over it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. If they could start selling a proper vegan pudding (something cakey!) I'd be a very happy bunny. Until then, I'm very happy to eat anything vegan on the menu, particularly the ramen.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I hope they bring the vegan menu to the NYC location!! I experienced Wagamama in Amsterdam and thoroughly enjoyed it, but the NYC location has scant vegan options. Here's hoping!

    ReplyDelete

Talk to me!