Said three of my colleagues, as I told them I was off to Little Tokyo. I live around the corner, but have somehow only just discovered the restaurant, tucked down Central Street near the Corn Exchange.
The family-owned Japanese restaurant has been open for more than 20 years, retaining its striking original design with a water feature, cherry blossom trees and gorgeous tables made out of reclaimed wood.
We were seated in the almost-empty basement floor and could easily have been overlooked, but that wasn’t 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 box set meals and a separate menu for veggies and vegans. There’s a range of classic cocktails, Japanese spirits and lagers and a good wine list.
To start, we shared the avocado tempura, vegetarian gyoza and dim sum siu mai.
I was curious as to whether the avocado would hold its shape when deep fried, but it did - perfectly. The batter was crisp, moreish but not greasy, followed by a cool mouthful of ripe avocado, dunked into wasabi mayonnaise and served with a crunchy side salad. It was a heavenly balance of rich and fresh.
The dim sum siu mai went down just as well - little parcels of crisp dough filled with mouth-watering minced pork, and served with a sweet chilli sauce that had a kick.
The vegetarian gyoza was filled to the brim with a colourful array of vegetables, seasoned well and packed with flavour. Our only criticism was that the dough had been rolled out too thick, and some bites were very slightly undercooked, but we still finished the lot.
The portion sizes were plentiful, but we had our eyes on the array of mains. After much deliberation, we ordered two of the ramen dishes - one vegetarian, one seafood.
And what a wise choice that was.
The depth of flavour in my vegetarian ramen completely blew my mind. As I slurped up the homemade miso broth, my tastebuds went on a journey through salty soy, spicy ginger, kicks of chilli and the warming, almost meaty flavour of mushrooms. My bowl was packed full of deep-fried tofu and a huge array of vegetables, a surprise with every mouthful - from crispy onion and crunchy pak choi to juicy mushrooms and fresh courgette.
My friend loved her seafood ramen. Again, a very generous helping of Little Tokyo’s house broth, with fried king prawns, mussels, fish balls, squid and octopus. Her one niggle was that the fried king prawns turned soggy after sitting in the broth - she felt that they would have been better without the batter.
But paired with a cool mojito, and a pint of Asahi for my friend, this was one of the most exciting dinners I’ve had for some time. And for just short of £53, for a huge amount of food, it was very reasonable too.
Just writing this has got my tastebuds tingling.
Address: 24 Central Road, Leeds, LS1 6DE
Telephone: 0113 243 9090
Opening hours: Mon-Sun, noon-10pm.