Oba Leeds review: I tried the Korean and Japanese restaurant and bar in the Merrion Centre

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My favourite Korean restaurant in Leeds just gets better with each visit. 

I often gloat that Leeds’ food scene is simply unparalleled. However, there’s one cuisine that I think we need more of - Korean food. 

So when Oba opened its door in the Merrion Centre in September 2021, I was eager to get back to my home city to try everything at the Korean and Japanese fusion restaurant. 

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Oba Kitchen & Bar, in Merrion Centre, Leeds. Photo: National WorldOba Kitchen & Bar, in Merrion Centre, Leeds. Photo: National World
Oba Kitchen & Bar, in Merrion Centre, Leeds. Photo: National World | National World

During the meal, I mentally crowned it my favourite of its kind in the city. And I’ve been looking for an excuse to head back since.

I returned to the sleek restaurant on a quiet Monday evening to see if it still deserved to be on the pedestal I had placed it on. 

Seated immediately, I realised I had forgotten how much I liked the set up inside. The high ceilings and large glass windows that let natural light shine through, illuminating the bar, makes for a lovely dining experience where every picture of the food and your guest turn out just perfect. 

The servers, who never rushed me and my guest, made the restaurant feel cosier than its aesthetic. 

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There were some differences; since my last visit, the menu has undergone some changes - it’s larger than I recalled it to be. There’s the regular menu as well as a bottomless brunch, bento lunch and ramen menu. 

The regular menu features an extensive selection of Korean and Japanese classic starters including soup, gyozas and spring rolls. 

The mains offering is even broader, with katsu curry, stir-fried noodles, kimchi fried rice and toppoki and more.

However, my guest and I came for one thing only: bibimbap, a Korean rice dish. 

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Oba Kitchen & Bar, in the Merrion Centre, Leeds. Pictured are two bibimbaps, gyozas and kimchi. Photo: National WorldOba Kitchen & Bar, in the Merrion Centre, Leeds. Pictured are two bibimbaps, gyozas and kimchi. Photo: National World
Oba Kitchen & Bar, in the Merrion Centre, Leeds. Pictured are two bibimbaps, gyozas and kimchi. Photo: National World | National World

At Oba, bibimbap is served in a dolsot, or stone pot in English, meaning the dish stays hot long after it arrives. The rice even crispens eventually, a delightful crunch to the meal. 

My bibimbap arrived with fresh vegetables, mushrooms and topped with a sweet and spicy gochujang sauce. The beef bibimbap, which my friend ordered, came with a fried egg too. 

The dish, which ranges from £13.50 to £15, is mixed at the table by the server, who adjusted the spice level of the dish according to our preferences. 

Exactly how I recall it, the dish was cooked and seasoned to perfection. The dish might look small but it takes a lot to get through, especially when it's coupled with a few sides. 

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To give us a break from the spicy rice dish, we ordered vegetable gyozas as a side for £7.80, which was a beautiful green colour and well-cooked with a crispy base. 

It felt wrong to order a Korean meal without kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish consisting of salted and fermented vegetables, most often cabbage or radish. At Oba, this was only £3 and its sour kick was the perfect addition to our meal.

Two years later and Oba is still my favourite Korean restaurant in Leeds. It’s somewhere you’d take a friend to introduce them to the city, and somewhere you long to return to before you’ve even paid the bill. 

Factfile

Address: Merrion Shopping Centre, Unit 2 Wade Ln, Leeds LS2 8NG

Telephone:  0113 244 2956

Opening hours: Sunday - Thursday, noon - 10pm, Friday - Saturday, noon - 11pm.

Website: obaleeds.co.uk

Scores

Food: 10/10

Value: 10/10

Atmosphere: 10/10

Service: 10/10

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