Written by Jon Howe.
Best Japanese restaurants in Leeds
In the UK, Italian, Indian and Chinese restaurants are ubiquitous, but you have to search a little harder to find Japanese restaurants. However, it’s good to see that Leeds has one or two good places to enjoy Japanese food.
Sublime eating experience
One of the most popular Japanese dishes is sushi, which is vinegared sticky rice with little slivers of raw fish, cooked egg, or vegetable. As for the raw fish, don’t let anybody try to convince you otherwise: those little slivers just melt in the mouth, and the pickled ginger and soy sauce just make the whole eating experience totally sublime. If you want to spice things up a bit, there is wasabi, which is like a Japanese version of horseradish sauce, but green.
The first thing that grabs you as you walk into Little Tokyo is the decor, which transports you to a Japanese ornamental garden complete with bridge, trees, and ornamental carp. The next thing that will grab you is the range of cuisine, which encompasses the traditional sophistication of sushi, sashimi and tempura and workaday favourites like ramen, udon, bento boxes, katsu, and Japanese-style curries.
All this goes down very well with a glass or two of crisp, dry Asahi. Little Tokyo also do some rather tasty desserts, such as ginger and lime cheesecake, and ice creams such as coconut, lychee and mint green tea. There is plenty on the menu to keep vegetarians happy, too, such as avocado tempura and tofu dishes.
So where else can you enjoy sushi in Leeds? At Harvey Nichols on Briggate you’ll find a branch of Yo! Sushi, where the dishes are prepared fresh behind the counter you’re sitting at, and then placed on a conveyor belt that makes its way around in a circuit.
You just pick the dishes off the belt that you fancy (they are colour coded so you know how much you will be paying at the end). You can choose from 91 dishes, including sashimi, maki and nori wrapped hand rolls, as well as hot dishes such as chicken katsu curry.
An independent and local sushi shop is Sesame, up at Leeds University Union and in the city centre on St Paul’s Street, near Park Square. Sesame uses ingredients that are local and from sustainable sources. They do delicious sushi with crab, salmon, sea bass, tuna, and prawn, as well as ones with egg and vegetables. Sesame do a delivery service with boxes of nigiri, maki and roto, served with wasabi, soy, and pickled ginger.
They also do sticky rice salads, such as spiced chicken, as well as Japanese miso soup, which is a great accompaniment to any Japanese dish. The shop on St Paul’s Street sells a range of delicious foods, including soups, cakes, pies, sushi, noodles and salads.
Moving on from sushi to yet more varieties of Japanese food, a good one to try is Wagamama, which offers not just positive eating but positive living too. Wagamama in Japanese means “selfish”, but I won’t hold that against them because they are simply brilliant, with a great menu focussed mainly on rice dishes, noodle dishes and salads.
Here you can get that ever-popular Japanese classic ramen, which is a big bowl of noodles in soup. In the UK you might get a bag of chips on your way back from the pub; in Japan you sit down and have a bowl of ramen. You can also get yaki soba, which is fried noodles, and such staples as chicken katsu curry.
Wagamama do some gorgeous salads, like green tea noodle mixed with scallop and bacon, and other wildly imaginative salads. They also do healthful fresh juices such as carrot and ginger, as well as Japanese beers and sake. The Wagamama in Leeds is on Park Row, just a few minutes from the railway station and close to the shopping area.
If yaki soba is the Japanese food that you love, then you will find plenty of these mouthwatering fried noodles at Fuji Hiro. You will also find ramen, rice dishes, soups and green tea. There’s plenty of choice for both vegetarians and carnivores, and it is particularly good to see that staple of the Japanese diet tofu on the menu.
The decor is minimalist, but actually not dissimilar to a lot of eateries in Japan. Fuji Hiro is on Wade Lane, at the side of the Merrion Centre, and its informal cafe-style makes it an excellent place to bring children along to. You will find a vast array of shops nearby the restaurant, so it’s the ideal place for a lunch break.