Recently I was invited down to the Wagamama restaurant on New Street in Birmingham. My job? To check out their vegan options and report back! Well, post honeymoon here I am and reporting back, as promised dear readers!
Firstly, our waitress was very knowledgeable about what was vegan and what wasn’t on the Wagamama menu. However, since she knew we were coming (indeed, expressly invited us) I’m not sure how any other member of staff would of faired. On previous visits I’ve been to to their Broad Street branch. At that branch, the Wagamama staff weren’t that helpful off the bat. They just provided a giant allergen menu for us to read instead. So if your waiter/ess knows their stuff, it’s easy. If not, settle in for a read of that big allergen menu, or read this post instead.
One of my favourite things about dining at Wagamamas itself has always been that you can actually see into their kitchen. It’s a part of the whole experience really, and I love restaurants that do this. I feel so much more confident in the chef’s when you can literally see them cooking your meal. Plus, it’s so cool when the flames whoosh up from the pan for some dishes!
There is something to note about the seating arrangements: at peak times you’re likely to be seated on one of their long benches, especially if you’re in a small party. This means you are sat with other people on long, bench-like tables. There are small tables and cute booths too, but they’re often taken up first. Personally, I like the sharing a table thing! But if you don’t like the idea of sharing a table, call the restaurant ahead of time and request a table that won’t be shared.
Wagamama vegan food
The food at Wagamama is always served as soon as it’s ready. This means whilst you can order a ‘starter’ it might not come as one! Usually, it does, but not always. As our ‘starter’ we ordered the Yasai Steamed Gyoza, which has been a long term favourite of mine (we’re talking years here)… Except that I now order the veggie-friendly version instead of the duck or pork stuffed varieties. I also love that the gyoza are steamed and not fried. They taste so much fresher and flavour in the filling really stands out.
For our main courses, Adam chose the Yasai Itame, which required no modifications that I can remember. Yasai Itame (below) is rice noodles in a spicy green coconut and lemongrass soup topped with tofu + vegetables, stir-fried beansprouts, red and spring onions, bok choi, peppers, mushrooms and chillies. garnished with coriander and lime.
I ordered the Yasai Yaki Soba, with the modification of no egg. I also ordered a side of Japanese Pickles, which were nearly forgotten about but after a quick enquiry they soon made their way to the table.
Yasi Yaki Soba (shown above) is: udon noodles (instead of soba) with mushroom + vegetables, (no egg), peppers, beansprouts, white and spring onions. garnished with fried shallots, pickled ginger and sesame seeds
The portion of pickles, as you can see, is pretty poor. I probably wouldn’t order them again if I’m being honest.
We were far too full of all that vegan food after all that to even entertain dessert, so we called it a day. It didn’t look like there was much to choose from though, and a cursory glance of their website menu confirms it. On the face of it none of the desserts are vegan. But if you have room after your main meal, ask your server to see if any of them can be modified to be suitable.
Just the two of us couldn’t sample everything, unfortunately. Our bellies would have exploded if we’d even attempted to try all the food! But there was really quite a bit of choice – more than I would usually expect from a restaurant that’s not specifically vegan. From memory, other vegan food options on the menu also included:
- Yasai Surendra’s Curry (a rich, hot and spicy green curry made with vegetables, jalapeño peppers, onion and ginger. topped with sweet potato straws and served with steamed rice)
- Yasai Ramen (traditional japanese omelette, crispy fried silken tofu and mixed mushrooms in a vegetable noodle soup)
- Warm Tofu Chilli Salad (stir-fried tofu, aubergines, red peppers, asparagus, mangetout, tender stem broccoli and red onion on a bed of baby gem lettuce. dressed in sweet chilli sauce. garnished with chillies, spring onions and cashew nuts)
- Yasai Cha Han Donburi – no egg (stir-fried brown rice with tofu + vegetables,
egg,mushrooms, mangetout, sweetcorn and spring onions. served with a side of japanese pickles)
- wok-fried greens
- raw salad (check the dressing)
- miso soup + pickles
Things to note
I also learnt a few odd and useful things about the vegan options at Wagamama, including:
- useful: Katsu curry can’t be veganised on the spot. They make the curry in the morning, and the process involves using egg to bind the breadcrumbs
- useful: mushroom onigiri suffers from the same egg-breadcrumb problem as above.
- odd: their orange juice isn’t suitable for vegans. It;s bought in from out outside supplier and apparently the supplier do weird things to it (my words, not theirs!)
- useful: Wagamama kimchi isn’t suitable for vegans. Fish sauce/stock (apologies, I can’t remember the exact word) is used in the pickling process
Delicious, packed with flavour and filling: that’s how I’d describe the vegan food at Wagamama. We essentially watched the chefs cook our meals so it was obviously all fresh too. A little. I tried not to stare too much, but it really is fascinating to me! Despite not always getting a vegan-knowledgeable member of staff, I have always got somebody who was helpful and pleasant (at least).
Wagamama’s strikes me as a really good choice for eating out with my friends, none of whom are vegan since they can have their pick and choose of dishes, and so can I! Usually, if I go to a “regular restaurant” with my family of friends I have perhaps two options? For example at Zizzi I can have pizza or pasta (although they have just launched a new menu that would give me the choice of pizza, pasta or a different pasta).
Would I go back?
Definitely, 100%. Especially with a group of non-vegan friends or family, as mentioned above. It also seems like an easy option if we’re hungry and don’t know of any vegetarian or vegan restaurants in the area.