Last month we were invited to review the Japanese and Asian infused restaurant Wagamama. We went to Manchester Spinningfields branch and the experience was overall very good. Recently they've launched their new Autumn/ Winter menu, so we thought that it would be good to visit again. To see the difference between the quality of different branches, we visited their Manchester Printworks branch instead.
The Printworks branch is located in the basement, but they've managed to keep the restaurant well vented, and it still seem fairly spacious. When we sat down, I overheard a customer on the next table telling his friend that he'll never come back again. Oops! I wasn't sure what his problem was, but since we enjoyed our previous experience, I didn't think too much about it.
We quickly ordered our favourite drinks - Ginger Beer for hubby, Mixed Juice for Abby and Iced Peach Tea for myself. We've also ordered a mini Ramen from the children menu for the kids as they enjoyed it very much last time.
Although an orange juice arrived instead of the combo, I didn't think it was a big deal so I didn't bother telling them about it. Abby still enjoyed it and drank it all. I didn't think that their mini Ramen will be any different than the one we had previously so I didn't try it, but I regret it now as ours wasn't as good. I'm guessing that it couldn't be too bad as the children enjoyed it and Clay's eyes lighted up when we gave him seconds.
We've ordered 3 starters like last time, including their new Seaweed Salad, Abby's favourite Chilli Squid and Lollipop Prawn Kushiyaki.
The Seaweed Salad was fantastic! We loved the texture of the Wakame seaweed and crunchy shredded carrots tossed in their house dressing made from sesame oil and vinegar. Adding the spiciness from the red chilli made this dish a great starter. It would have been perfect if there was more of the seaweed and less of the spring onions of course!
The Chilli Squid has more flavour than the other branch, and you can tell that it's because there were more seasoning on them ( see my previous post for comparison ). Some of them are too spicy for Abby but she still ate a lot. I think it's a touch too salty but otherwise delicious.
We were a bit disappointed that they've taken the Beef Kushiyaki off the menu, but it's always good to try something new. The prawn version is very Thai, a bit like Thai fish cake's flavourings. They were cooked well and delicious.
We were quite happy with our starters, and apart from the seaweed salad, they were served hot! (We had cold dishes last time) By then we were really looking forward to our Pork Ramen and their new Wagamama Ramen, both from their Autumn/ Winter menu.
When they arrived we were wowed. We love seeing murky soup as they're more flavoursome. We were a bit baffled with their new half tea-stained egg though. Tea-stained eggs are one of our favourite snack, but for some reason they have only stained half of the egg. It's not a whole egg to begin with, so you get a quarter of tea-stained egg and a quarter of normal egg. I'm guessing it's because locals might not like the strong flavour of a fully stained egg, so serving half-stained gives it a milder flavour.
We were both served really really yummy barbecued pork belly instead of the usual cut, which I think they should stick with, it's really good! I'm normally not very keen in Japanese barbecued pork as they hardly taste much, but this pork belly tasted like it's flavoured with Teriyaki sauce, delicious! Of course you'll be saying that the fat is unhealthy, but with good food like this it's all worth it! (That's my personal opinion, I'm not inviting a debate here!)
The ingredients were all very nice, unfortunately the soup was so salty it was undrinkable (coming from me who loves pouring a lot of soya sauce onto most of my food), and their Ramen was so stodgy I only ate the ingredients and left the noodles there. I even ate the bamboo shoots that I normally dislike as it's at least edible. Hubby said that his noodles were slightly better than mine but mine had to be undercooked.
To be fair to Wagamama, I didn't complain, which I could and should have, as their service was very good and they are always happy to change what you don't like. It's the same in the other branch where Abby was given a fresh cup of cocochino because she said hers was cold (she left it on the table for too long). But the waitress noticed that I left my noodles and soup there. After checking with me, she told us that Wagamama has recently changed to a slightly more healthier Ramen that their customers prefer and sometimes customers prefer their noodles cooked this way. We were very doubtful about that, but she is kind and told us to inform them next time so that they can cook the noodles to our liking.
While I took Abby to the toilets, the manager came over to speak to hubby. According to him, when Wagamama changed their menu, they've changed the Ramen they were using as well, but their cooking time was still 90 seconds for the original noodles. Same with the Miso soup base, it's something new and it could have possibly been made more salty by the flavours from the ingredients. He said that he appreciated our feedback and wish more customers can do so, so that they can adjust the food quality. At the end, the manager took my Ramen off the bill, even though hubby said that he didn't have to. We did go in with vouchers and we hardly needed to pay anything extra, but the manager insisted, which was very kind of him.
We understand that there are different types of Ramen, but for any kind of noodle including spaghetti, they should be smooth, slurpable (in Japan you are suppose to slurp loudly so the chef knows that you are enjoying it) and will separate from each other. We don't really believe that anyone would prefer this Ramen than what Wagamama used to serve. Regarding the Miso soup, we do agree with the manager that it could be the ingredients making it overly salty, but a chef should know what the flavour would be at the end after ingredients are placed together. Apart from this, we love their new menu. Hopefully Wagamama can adapt their new ingredients soon and serve great food again as usual.
Disclosure: We were sent vouchers to spend in Wagamama; all opinions are honest and my own