Issho Samurai tasting menu – A visit by Paul Conboy for H&N Magazine
Issho is very much becoming a Leeds institution for fine dining and Japanese izakaya eating. If you are one of few people reading this who are yet to try Issho, then my recommendation is that you visit for a truly brilliant experience, including dishes such as seared tuna rolls and seared beef to whipped tofu and miso black cod.
Head Chef, Joe Grant, has continued to shape a menu which fits in well with this restaurants’ stylish and serene interior. The surroundings here offer a trendy outdoor, city view terrace as well as a more formal restaurant lined with blossom trees, which hang over tables alongside an open kitchen packed with konro grills and busy chefs preparing wonderful Japanese delights.
We had been invited today to try their new Samurai Tasting Menu. This is one of three set menus which Issho offer alongside a more traditional a la carte. It is separate to their bar and terrace menu which provides a further choice in smaller Japanese bar snacks and plates. The bar and terrace were full (with social distancing and safety precautions in place of course) when we arrived, and it didn’t take long for the tables in the main restaurant to be full too. Joe informed us that the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme had been hugely successful and whilst this had now ended, todays tables remained very much full – and rightly so! The post lock down feeling that people want to get out as much as possible and return to some sort of new normality was noticeably clear to see at Issho.
The Samurai menu started with a delicious Vegetable Tempura and an almost sweet and well marinated Chicken Karaage. The tempura included slices of sweet potato and fresh asparagus served in an extremely light and crisp batter. Alongside these we were served a range of Japanese inspired drinks. Typically, you can expect rice-based sake wines covering the ultra-premium and most fine grade Junmai Daiginjo, to beers including the Asahi on draught. Bottles of beer range from the Shibuya based Sapporor to the Kirin Ichiban and their wines capture some fantastic regions, including a Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir from New Zealand to a classic and ripe Rioja Roseado from Spain. After some deliberation we settled with an impressive glass of the red berry and plum flavoured Merlot Mourvedre and an equally impressive and fresh raspberry lemonade mocktail.
Next up was a trio of amazing dishes. We were first served the Sushi and Sashimi Selection and of course we kept up our use of chopsticks which helped to soak up these fresh fish rice parcels with the selection of dipping sauces, ginger and wasabi. These were followed by a ‘construct your own Spicy Pork Bao’. The belly of pork melted in the mouth, it literally fell apart in the soft and doughy bao and the pickles which came with this complimented the flavours brilliantly. It was a definite stand out in a menu which impressed throughout. Finally, in this course, we were served a delicious and steaming Prawn Gyoza with a fermented and seasoned Japanese dashi vinegar.
We found that the Samurai menu takes away the hard work of choosing what you might decide to eat particularly if you are not wholly familiar with Japanese food. This menu covers a great range of vegetables, fish and meat. You will eat your way through delicately styled and traditional maki as well as raw sashimi. Yet the grilled robatayaki and robata will feed your appetite for Japanese BBQ. You will not be left disappointed.
The pink in the middle duck breast came next and was served with a very pleasing grilled sweet potato and smoked lime butter. This course was followed by an incredible chilled caramel custard purin dessert. The little pot in which it was served sat on a bed of ice, which was a clever idea as the purin stayed cool and got cooler with each mouthful.
Joe is an excellent chef, that is in no doubt, he and his team provide a service which makes you feel very welcome and special. They did a fantastic job in looking after us.
If you visit Issho soon, which we highly recommend, then make sure you check out their new and impressive tasing menus. We will certainly be ordering the Samurai again!