Our guest food blogger Melina Zachariou shares her thoughts and insights on a new vegan dish at Wagamama Noodle Lab.
A short walk from Oxford Circus station will take you to the Wagamama Noodle Lab on Dean Street, Soho.
This was no ordinary trip to your typical food joint. It was the opportunity to sit down with editor of My Soho Times magazine, The Soho Girl, and a small team of talented creatives with an interest in blogging.
Combined, there were eight of us with skills ranging across the board discussing food, culture, history, and fashion that will make it into the magazine along some exciting events, coming very soon to readers.
Accompanying the discussions, was of course, the food.
Wagamama. A name we’re all familiar with. But how many of us know of its Noodle Lab? Wagamama’s innovative restaurant where all their new dishes are designed and trialled before going out to Wagamama menus across the nation. Soho is home to its very own Noodle Lab nestled along Dean street – and worth the visit. Long benches across the tables encourage conversation and the brightly lit neon signs dotted around, fit in with the Soho vibes of London.
The menu has a long red strip on the right side showcasing their test items whilst keeping the old favourites in the main menu. I was eager to test the vegan “suika” tuna. Not exactly a noodle lab special but I was interested nonetheless.
Dehydrated watermelon steak is seasoned and wok seared. The steak sits atop a bed of sticky white rice; accompanied by miso sesame wok fried kale, tenderstem broccoli, a handful of pickled radish and a generous dollop of guacamole.
The guacamole wasn’t your average helping of avocado. Blended tofu explains the silkiness of the dip while edamame keeps the guacamole sweet. Add it to the bowl which is then topped with crispy fried shallots, sesame seeds, fresh chilli and lime.
But what of the star of the dish? The Suika tuna, in one word, could only be described as perplexing. Wok searing the watermelon transforms the watery sweetness of the fruit into the savoury, umami warmth of a gently fried skinless tomato. Something one could get used to after a couple of tastes.
What about the texture? Dehydrating a watermelon does something amazing to it. You go from an ice cold, fall apart freshness to a delightfully held together meat that actually does resemble a tuna. The slight ‘jelliness’ isn’t to my personal taste but it’s not a problem. I would definitely try the dish again.
The sticky white rice was simple and less flavourful than the rest of the bowl. A good thing given the remaining ingredients had enough flavour to pick it up. Wagamama always find ways to make veggies delicious and this time round was no exception. Top your sticky rice with a generous heap of the crunchy broccoli and soft, crispy kale and you have a very happy mouthful of food.
You should definitely try the Lab if they are looking to go vegan or simply want a bit of a break from meat.
Wagamama Menu drop!
FREE tasting at Wagamama Noodle Lab for the launch of their new menu drop on Tuesday Feb 4 between 12 – 2pm.
81 Dean St, Soho, London, W1D 3SW
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