Restaurant review: Little Toyko, Central Road, Leeds

Little Tokyo is an institution on the Leeds dining scene. Picture: James Hardisty.
Little Tokyo is an institution on the Leeds dining scene. Picture: James Hardisty.

There’s been a number of new Japanese restaurants popping up in the city this year, with Edo Sushi taking over the kitchen at Candlebar and Issho now open at Victoria Gate.

So it’s easy to forget about Little Tokyo, one of the mainstays of the Leeds dining scene for 20 years or more.

Tucked away on Central Road, just behind Debenhams, it looked just the same as I remembered from my last visit around five or six years back.

Koi carp swim in the tank set in the floor of the main restaurant, with the water trickling down from a fountain adding a soothing backdrop to the chatter of diners.

A little bridge led us past the tank to one of the tables towards the back, which are set beneath a wooden structure dressed with fairy lights that would not look out of place in a Japanese inspired garden. Add to this, the mural on the rear wall and it feels like you’ve stepped into a little oasis.

We visited on a midweek evening but even then a dozen or so other diners were occupying the simple wooden tables and benches.

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Those looking for something lighter can choose from a wide range of starters, soup noodles, shallow fried noodles and salads, with a plenty of meat-free options for the vegetarians.

Then there’s the Japanese style curry and rice for those seeking something more filling, and a selection of six and 12-piece sushi and sashimi sets.

But my friend and I both went for the bento box sets – a four course meal presented in a wooden box divided into sections (£12.99-£16.99).

The tempura were cooked to perfection, with the vegetables tender but not too soft and the batter thin, crisp and light without any of the greasiness you can get in some places.

Another compartment contained a crispy glass noodle salad, with crunchy peppers and a refreshing dressing.

The rice topped with seaweed mix and dried fish flakes was sticky enough to eat with ease, even for a chopstick amateur such as myself, and complimented my main course of tender beef fillets in a delicious terikayi sauce.

My friend had opted for the sashimi set, which also won the thumbs up with its generous helping of raw salmon, tuna, seabass and salted jelly fish.

Rounding off each of the sets were refreshing orange slices and pomegranate.

It was a sweltering hot day so the mango and passion fruit cooler I had to drink was most welcome and my friend happily polished off two pints of the light Asahi lager, bringing our total bill to £37.73.

The staff were efficient, polite and friendly, but it’s all very low key. They seem to prefer to rely on the quality of the food to justify itself and with meals as enjoyable as this, I can’t really blame them.