Little Tokyo Leeds review: I tried this family-run Japanese restaurant that has stood the test of time
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With just eight tables, the small family-run restaurant – one of the first Japanese ones in West Yorkshire – became an overnight hit. It was even rated one of the the Yorkshire Evening Post’s top 10 restaurants in Leeds just three weeks after opening.
Since then, capacity has grown, many more accolades have been graciously received and, in a time when the hospitality trade has been dealt several devastating blows, business remains brisk.
We visited on a weekday evening when almost every table in this charming restaurant in a rather unlikely backstreet location was taken. Having negotiated the small wooden bridge over the central water feature without giving the koi carp a fright, we were seated in traditional style on cushions; the atmosphere was lively and the service attentive as we ordered our drinks, a superb, ice cold pint of Asahi and a diet cola.
The menu is extensive, with everything a Japanese food enthusiast could wish for and more. Sushi and sashimi feature extensively but there’s also curries, soup with noodles, stir fries and the hugely popular bento boxes.
My guest opted for dim sum siu mai to start, steamed pockets of minced pork with a sweet chilli dressing. He found them delicious; piquant, rich and fulsome in flavour. By contrast, my tempura avocado was extraordinarily light with a perfectly sharp wasabi mayonnaise as accompaniment.
His main course was the intriguingly named dancing salmon – not a fish doing the floss, rather a seared salmon avocado roll with Japanese mayonnaise and spring onion.
It was rich, fresh and satisfying – although one slight quibble was that, as a something of a novice with sushi, he could have been advised to order an accompanying side dish.
This became evident as he jealously eyed my tofu steak bento box; the begrudging offer share my delicious sesame-topped rice and crisp tempura vegetables was taken up far too eagerly.
No wonder the bento boxes are so popular. Paying homage to traditional, home-cooked food, it’s a tour of Japanese cuisine in a generously apportioned box, complete with dressed side salad and fruit.
Fillings range from spare ribs and chicken teriyaki to grilled eel, duck with mango and vegan chicken chunks.
Happily, we managed to squeeze in a dessert, with my guest plumping for a rich, organic chocolate brownie with a scoop of delicate lychee ice cream, while I was intrigued by the vegan coffee jelly.
Having been served in Japan almost 100 years, it was an eye-opener; an unusual concept but one that made for a refreshing alternative to an after dinner latte.
Address: 24 Central Road, LS1 6DE
Telephone: 0113 243 9090
Open: daily from noon until 10pm