Said three of my colleagues, as I told them that I had left for Little Tokyo. I live around the corner but have only just discovered the restaurant, tucked away on Central Street near the Corn Exchange.
The family-run Japanese restaurant has been open for over 20 years, maintaining its striking original design with a water feature, cherry blossoms and beautiful reclaimed wood tables.
We were seated in the nearly empty basement and could easily have been overlooked, but that was not the case at all. The staff were always on hand to help and were wonderfully polite.
The Grand Menu is enormous, including small plates, noodles, curries, sushi, bento dishes and a separate menu for vegetables and vegans. There’s a range of classic cocktails, Japanese spirits and lagers and a good wine list.
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To start, we shared the avocado tempura, vegetarian gyoza, and dim sum siu mai.
I was curious if the avocado would hold its shape when fried, but it did – perfectly. The batter was crispy, more indulgent but not greasy, followed by a fresh bite of ripe avocado, dipped in wasabi mayonnaise and served with a crunchy salad. It was a heavenly balance between rich and fresh.
The dim sum siu mai did just as well – small packets of crispy pastry filled with mouth-watering ground pork and served with a sweet chilli sauce that had a kick.
The vegetarian gyoza was filled to the brim with a colorful array of vegetables, well seasoned and full of flavor. Our only criticism was that the dough was rolled out too thick and some bites were very slightly undercooked, but we still finished the batch.
Portions were generous, but we had our eyes on the range of main courses. After much deliberation, we ordered two of the ramen dishes – one vegetarian, one seafood.
And what a wise choice it was.
The depth of flavor in my veggie ramen completely blew me away. As I gulped down the homemade miso broth, my taste buds took a trip through the salty soybeans, spicy ginger, chili shots, and warming, almost meaty flavor of mushrooms. My bowl was filled with fried tofu and a huge array of vegetables, a surprise in every bite – from crispy onion and crunchy bok choi to juicy mushrooms and fresh zucchini.
My friend loved her seafood ramen. Again, a very generous portion of Little Tokyo’s homemade broth, with fried king prawns, mussels, fish balls, calamari and octopus. Her only downside was that the fried king prawns got soggy after sitting in the broth – she felt they would have been better without the batter.
But accompanied by a fresh mojito and a pint of Asahi for my friend, it was one of the most exciting dinners I’ve had in some time. And for just under £53, for a huge amount of food, it was also very reasonable.
Just writing this has my taste buds on fire.
Address: 24 Central Road, Leeds, LS1 6DE
Opening hours: Mon-Sun, noon-10 p.m.