Review: Wagamama’s is a great asset to Ipswich’s eating-out scene

Wagamama - Buttermarket Ipswich.

Wagamama - Buttermarket Ipswich. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Nestled in the new foodie entrance of the Buttermarket in Ipswich town centre, the Japanese/Asian Fusion noodle chain is already proving a popular venue.

Gyoza, which are pulled pork dumplings

Gyoza, which are pulled pork dumplings - Credit: Archant

It’s Friday night and the place is heaving. There are already half a dozen or so people in front of us waiting to be seated, and a very organised but brisk waiter greets us and apologises for the wait of what could be ‘up to twenty minutes’.

It’s the perfect time to stop and appreciate the place.

Those Waga-lovers among us will understand when I describe the hum. It’s busy and vibrant, not the restaurant of choice if you want to hear those sweet whisperings of your date. People chatter excitedly, the rows of long tables and benches make for easy gossip, and the crash and clatter of the open kitchen to the right of the restaurant adds to the din.

Like the food, the interior is modern and fresh. Stylish lights hang above the wooden tables with metal legs, while mirrors along the back wall give the impression of space. There are also tables outside for summer dining.

Hirata steamed buns with Korean barbecue beef and red onion, Wagamama review

Hirata steamed buns with Korean barbecue beef and red onion, Wagamama review - Credit: Archant

We’re handed a menu as we wait - barely ten minutes as it turns out - before we are led to our table-for-two beside the kitchen counter. On the other side, a team of half a dozen chefs stir fry, season, mix and garnish at a frantic pace.

Soya sauce, chili oil and dried chilli salt sit neatly alongside our throw away table mat and chopsticks.

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When it come to starters, or side dishes if preferred, we got a bit giddy with the choice and greedily ordered three - Hirata steamed buns with korean barbecue beef and red onion, Gyoza, which are pulled pork dumplings, and lastly bang bang cauliflower.

The cauliflower was sensational. The humble veg was wok-fried and crispy, and coated in a chili sauce with spring onions and fresh ginger. It had just the right amount of heat, behind the sweet and sticky loveliness of the coating.

Wagamama Ramen

Wagamama Ramen - Credit: Archant

The dumplings were good. The almost-transparent batter hugs the delicious tender pork, which you dip in thick soya-type sauce. There are five in a portion and so delicious that a fall-out with the husband over the fifth was inevitable.

My husband was a bigger fan of the steamed buns than me. I was a bit confused by the bun - it’s like a fat mini-pitta, open at the sides with the filing on show. The beef with red onion, mayonnaise and coriander is a match made in heaven, but the batter of the bun was too thick and - for want of a better word - too doughy for me.

For my main course, I chose my staple - Wagamama Ramen. Before long a large bowl arrives (much larger than your standard cereal bowl) filled to the brim with grilled chicken, barbecue pork, prawns, chikuaw and mussels on top of noodles in a miso, ginger and chicken broth. Pea shoots, wakame, menma and a hard boiled egg complete the dish.

Like the ramen, the flavours and textures just overflow in a pool of yumminess. The warming ginger cuts through the light soup, which plays host to the prawns and mussels, and contrasted well by the savoury saline crunch of the barbecued pork.

It’s also jolly good fun to eat. Swapping between your chopsticks and the giant broth spoon, be warned of rogue droplets from your chin to your white blouse.

My husband ordered teriyaki soba with sirloin steak. The noodles are cooked in curry oil with mangetout, bok choim red onion, chili and beansprouts in a teriyaki sauce. I barely got a look in - it was that good, I was told.

The food is generally pretty good value for money. A great alternative to Pizza Express or Nando’s and it’s children’s menu is popular with my three daughters. The lack of formality and quietness is ideal for family dining.

It is, without doubt, a great asset to Ipswich’s eating-out scene.