There is only one place in Leeds to go when you’re feeling flash, Victoria Gate. A new-ish addition to the city’s skyline, it’s home to premium shops and luxurious Japanese eatery Issho. The restaurant's huge menu spans from sushi to bao buns and larger plates off the grill, making it one of Leeds' most coveted spots. I’ve eaten here before on a (pretty expensive) sushi date but for this visit, we decided to try out the Samurai (£45pp), the mid-range set menu with six courses.
In summer, Japanese dining enthusiasts can take advantage of the restaurant’s rooftop terrace but, as it was February and freezing, we chose to eat inside. While each table had decent lighting and a good amount of room, the overall vibe was cosy and intimate. It was busy for a Wednesday but the layout and lighting made it feel like we were comfortably separated from everyone there.
The menu started with sweet potato and seaweed crackers and a pea guac, before the second course kicked off with chicken karaage. Better known as fried chicken thighs to you and me, this dish was stunning; juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside, accompanied by a subtly spiced wasabi mayo.
Course number three consisted of a trio of dishes, each served separately. The spicy pork bao bun was the real star; soft and tender belly pork with crispy edges, coated in sticky sweet soy and sprinkled with sesame seeds. There was also a tomato salad with whipped tofu and perfectly-cooked chicken gyozas with sweetcorn purée.
Next up, the Issho sushi and sashimi selection, something I had been looking forward to all day… think four rolls of salmon and avocado uramaki and four slices of salmon sashimi. The avo salmon filling, a classic, provided a creamy contrast to the seaweed and rice, with sesame seeds adding a needed crunch. Salmon sashimi was pure quality; so fresh that it melted in the mouth.
For the main course, we were served duck breast with spiced plum, grilled sweet potatoes and smoked lime butter. It had a great mix of flavours and textures and (despite my reservations) it was surprisingly easy to eat mashed potatoes with chopsticks.
The final dish was rice pudding. Now, don’t be fooled by the beige-sounding description, it was actually amazing. The warm vanilla dish was topped with caramelised banana, nuts and a delicate banana ice cream... imagine the bougiest of Instagram granola bowls and you get the vibe.
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Issho’s a la carte can verge on expensive, making the Samurai Set Menu a great way to try more without a premium price tag. The six-course feast of Japanese small plates will leave you feeling stuffed and give you a chance to sample delicious, lesser-known dishes you may never have tried.
Hungry for more? Check out our guide to the best city centre restaurants in Leeds here.