Senbon Sakura restaurant review: Japanese cooks up 'some of the best food' in Leeds

Spicy kimchi wings at Senbon Sakura.
Spicy kimchi wings at Senbon Sakura.

Okay, cards straight on the table: Senbon Sakura has served me some of the best restaurant food I’ve had in ages.

The Japanese cafe and kitchen sits on the fringe of Leeds city centre in Great George Street, a road which these days offers a decent range of eateries to choose from – but people could do worse than to walk right to the end where this little gem has served in recent years.

Spider roll sushi.

Spider roll sushi.

First impressions?

After walking through a curtain decorated in traditional artwork of a koi fish, you’ll find a small but spacious cafe-style diner, with two- and four-seat wooden tables. Japanese features such as lanterns and a painting of a pagoda on the far wall are cheerful and not over the top.

Staff, meanwhile are personable and clearly hard-working.

What’s the menu like?

Big, overwhelmingly so. It’s a good job, therefore, it all looks so inviting. Sushi, tempura, ramen, noodles, curries, meat dishes and all the usual Japanese staples are given a fair showing, so people accustomed to eating the East Asian cuisine have plenty to choose from.

Now onto the food.

I had the spicy kimchi wings from the appetisers list and a spider roll – eight sushi rolls filled with fried soft shell crab, masago, cucumber, sweet chilli mayo, sesame and teriyaki sauce. My dining partner had pumpkin katsu and yasai curry - seasonal mixed vegetables cooked in mild sauce.

The kimchi wings - super-fresh but lathered in deep-red, tangy, jammy sauce – are now my favourite chicken dish in Leeds. They look beautiful and despite the thick sauce, retain an ultra-crispness on the skin, yet an amazing succulence inside.

The sushi rolls – which come looking unashamedly novel in a long, colourful line with tempura pieces on the ends – are a great accompaniment.

The fresh cucumber and more subtle sweetness offer a different flavour all together from the wings, while the accompanying pickled ginger is a great palate-cleanser. My friend’s yasai curry looks satisfying, and all signs showed it went down well.

Having poached a bit of the pumpkin katsu (which has a breadcrumb layer on the outside) with its sour sauce, I can vouch for that too – this place is amenable to veggies.

Portions are big, so it was a pass on dessert.

And the drinks?

My partner had a Ramune soda, a Japanese soft drink, while I had a sparkling water. A range of authentic sodas and alcoholic drinks are on offer.

How much was the bill? Was it value for money?

It was £31.20 in total – an absolute steal for four sizeable, incredibly good dishes and two drinks.