Wagamama

Where: 1 Victoria Square, Belfast BT1 4QG, on the middle floor next to the McDonald’s.

What: Chain restaurant serving Japanese/Asian fusion style dishes.

Prices: £4-6 for a starter, don’t think any of the veggie mains are more than a tenner.

Vegan menu: Poor. They went on a big marketing drive before Christmas for their new vegan menu, even the Wagamama Belfast Facebook page was posting about their new vegan options. Fast forward three months and there is no sign of a veggie or vegan menu in the Belfast restaurant and I don’t think they’ll be getting it any time soon. It seems to only be available in the rest of the UK. A couple of the dishes are vegan already, the yasai gyoza, yasai itame, and chilli tofu salad. The other veggie dishes can usually be made vegan but be careful – it would appear that they’re liberal with their use of fish sauce etc in dishes that would look fine if you didn’t ask (wok fried greens!). Omitting things generally changes the dish quite a lot too, I guess because they pre-prepare so much of their stuff. Not a single vegan dessert.

Drinks: Juices, soft drinks, a few beers and sake. Free green tea which I like.

Service: Generally ok – well-staffed and you can usually get someone’s attention fairly easily.

Comfortable? They’re pretty well known for their Japanese style seating – long benches that you will share with the other diners. Not the cosiest of restaurants but I don’t mind it for a quick lunch or casual dinner.

Was the food good? The three dishes that are already vegan I like. The gyoza come with a tasty dipping sauce, the chilli tofu salad has loads of fresh veggies and is really tasty. The itame is nice for what it is – a kind of curried noodle soup with lots of tofu and veggies. The items that they say can be modified are less good – expect very plain dishes with a crucial component generally missing i.e. trying to veganize the veggie ramen will result in a bowl of broth, noodles and a few mushrooms. Likewise with the donburi – when I asked for a vegan version I got a bowl of plain steamed rice with some tofu and a few leaves on top, and they charged me for a chicken one.

Toilets: To the left as you walk in. Corridor is very narrow for people coming and going.

My advice to the chef: Please be careful when preparing veggie options – this remains the only restaurant in Belfast that has fed me meat in the guise of yasai gyoza due to a mistake in the kitchen. Also if you could be a bit more inventive when asked to omit things that would be great e.g. adding some tofu or extra veggies instead of egg. One likes to feel as though they are not being ripped off.

My advice to the manager: Please try to get a proper vegan menu, I don’t know what the excuse is when it’s already available in the rest of the UK.

Overall: Wouldn’t go out of my way to visit at present, but there are edible options if you are in a pinch.

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