Leeds’ booming food scene now includes Issho, a contemporary Japanese rooftop restaurant and bar located at Victoria Gate. This latest venture by luxury restaurant group D&D London is accessed via a lift to the third floor or up a spectacular spiral staircase.
The whole development is an architectural stunner but Issho’s presence is understated, giving it an air of exclusivity. Once we spotted the signs on the ground floor and again at the entrance, we felt as though we had found a hidden gem.
The interior design is simply breathtaking, punctuated with bamboo accents and muted colours that flow into the separate dining areas. Issho boasts a restaurant space, a terrace with views over the city centre, the Kori Bar and an open kitchen with counter top seating.
A curved wall of wine links the bar and restaurant areas and the abundance of windows ensures the whole space is bathed in natural light. I may be going on about the beautiful design and décor but Issho is definitely not a case of style over substance. The menu is a real winner with its selection of tantalising Japanese and pan-Asian dishes as well as extensive list of wines, sake and cocktails.
Issho’s Executive Chef is Ben Orpwood, an acclaimed chef with an impressive culinary resumé spanning more than a decade of experience. He has created his modern yet authentic Japanese dishes in cities like Istanbul, Dubai, Sydney and London and has travelled extensively throughout Japan. He came to our table to say hello and thank me for the Instagram pics I was posting live. And he’s from Cambridge. Two pleasant surprises!
The name Issho is taken from the Japanese word for “together” and the menu is a reflection of this. It consists of a variety of dishes meant for sharing. Categories include snacks, bao buns, tempura, robata, beef & fish on the bone, robatayaki, maki, nigiri/sashimi and desserts (they’re big enough for sharing). Other dishes are listed under raw (salads, beef tartare) and hot (miso, gyoza).
Our waiter was really good at explaining all of the dishes and how they are prepared. There was no air of pretension and we were encouraged to ask questions. Impressed by how delicious everything sounded, we may have gotten carried away and ordered a lot of items. Everything we ate and drank was phenomenal in terms of flavour and presentation.
We shared a bottle of sparkling sake (Shirakabegura ‘Mio’) that was served on ice. This premium sake was smooth and refreshing with a softer and sweeter taste than sparkling wines.
While we waited for our dishes to be served (they arrived at different times, as is expected with sharing plates), we nibbled on chicken karaage, addictive bite-sized pieces of Japanese fried chicken.
We indulged in heavenly bao buns: two pillowy steamed buns, one filled with spicy pork and the other with Portland crab and avocado (the California).
The sushi dishes consisted of top-notch fresh fish with high quality rice. Nigiri included salmon (sake) and yellowfin tuna (maguro). Maki (rolls) featured tiger prawn tempura & yamagobo (burdock) and salmon, avocado & cucumber. The sushi was superior in taste and texture, some of the best we’ve ever had.
The prawn & vegetable tempura was served with traditional dashi dipping sauce whilst the Cornish squid came with a flavourful spicy & sour sauce. The batter for both dishes was light, airy and crispy. The squid tempura was particularly moreish.
Issho’s open kitchen includes a Japanese robata grill. This traditional method of cooking uses charcoal and imbues the food with a smoky barbecue flavour. All of the dishes under the menu’s robata section are cooked on this grill. The salmon teriyaki was cooked perfectly, definitely not dry, with a sweet and salty glaze. This classic dish was served with pickled cucumber, of course.
Our desserts were delectable culinary creations. I had the Okinawa cinnamon santandagi (Japanese doughnuts), served with both yuzu curd and chocolate ganache dips for contrasting flavours. The doughnuts were soft, airy and not at all greasy.
Paulo enjoyed the special chocolate and matcha pudding, namely a chocolate fondant with an oozy matcha filling. The matcha’s earthy and sweet flavours paired well with the fondant’s bittersweet dark chocolate. This was a new taste sensation for both of us. The fondant was served with ice cream and chocolate soil. A striped chocolate decoration on top provided an artistic touch.
At the time of our visit, Issho had only been open for a week but we experienced no teething problems. The food and service were spot on! We would travel to Leeds just to eat at Issho again. The weekend brunch menu is particularly tempting with unlimited bao buns with a main sharing dish and – get this – free-flowing Prosecco for two hours. We are so there!
The owners, managers or staff did not invite me to visit this establishment and were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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