Turning Japanese

By Lucy Reynolds

Anyone who knows me, knows I like sushi. Actually, scratch that…I love sushi. Forget Jiro Dreams of Sushi: I am sushi! I’m obsessed. Which means that when someone tells me that they’ve had good sushi, like the pedant that I am, I have to enquire if they mean Yo Sushi! Quite often they do, and I find it hard to hide my judgment. You see, I’ve had my fair share of sushi, sashimi, and tempura, and I know that a lot of the stuff out there that masquerades as ‘authentic sushi’ really isn’t, and it is pretty disappointing. Have you ever had the little sushi boxes from Boots in an attempt to have a healthy meal deal (forgetting the monster munch and Red Bull you pair with it)? If you haven’t, don’t – unless you are a fan of plastic seaweed, vinegar- laden rice and tasteless tuna. Even the established Japanese restaurants in Leeds (hello Little Tokyo!), whilst being pleasant, do not have the wow-factor anymore, and definitely, do not offer that authentic Japanese taste that I crave.

So I was rather dubious when I heard that a new Japanese restaurant, Edo Sushi, was going to open in The Candlebar, one of the trinity of Ossett Brewery’s venues in Granary Wharf. When the Candlebar first opened, it boasted some of the most delicious handmade pizzas in Leeds, so I wondered whether this change of cuisine would suit the clientele, and more importantly, would it taste as good as I desired? That was until I heard of the credentials of the chef.

This unique collaboration sees East meet West, with the culinary stylings of Tomo Hasegawa, a former student of the Tokyo Sushi Academy being paired with some of the finest craft ales and wines, courtesy of Jamie Lawson, owner of Ossett Brewery.

Upon entering the bar, the inside of the building had been subtly transformed with an oriental theme of decoration, with classic Japanese artwork paired up with modern collages of Japanese iconography and pop culture. We were shown to our table by Jasmine, our extremely friendly host, and when given the choice of the drinks menu, we were spoilt for choice. Deciding to start as we meant to go on, tasting the best that Japan had to offer, we plumped for Isake Plum Umeshu from the impressive sake menu. I have a sweet tooth and was worried that my friend might find it too saccharine for her taste buds, but she loved it as much as I did and a good slug of sake always gets the night off to a good start.

Our first taste of Hasegawa’s cuisine was a fresh and vibrant Wa-Fu salad, presented beautifully with cress and seaweed on top. It was one of the ‘Japanese Tapas’ dishes on the menu and was refreshing and moreish, cleansing our palate from the sweet sake. Along with the salad came a small plate of marinated aubergine which was so mouth-wateringly tender and flavorsome that when we met the chef at the end and told him our favorite dishes, we were shocked when he said he was thinking about replacing the aubergine on the menu. I think our ranting and raving about the amazing taste might have changed his mind though – it is such a brilliant little side dish that it would be a shame to lose it.

After wolfing down these tasty morsels, our sushi platter had already arrived, looking so beautiful that you didn’t know whether to eat it or frame it.  It had nigiri topped with scallop, seared salmon belly, tuna and sea bass, which were all wonderfully fresh, soft and toothsome. The seared salmon belly for me was the highlight of the nigiri, with the slightly chargrilled flavor and texture was great with the soy dipping sauce. We also had the dynamite ISO roll: a spicy roll made from tempura prawn and avocado – always going to be a winner. Along with this, we were given separate tempura prawns with a katsu style dipping sauce, which were incredibly crisp and devilishly tasty. The main thing for me was just how fresh the fish was, which is truly what makes the difference with sushi. People who have never had sashimi before often fear raw fish because of what they think it will taste like. Anyone who has had great quality Japanese food knows that there is not one hint of a fish smell and it should be soft and succulent. Edo sushi must have a trawler out the back of the restaurant because it was so fresh, it tasted like it was straight from the sea.

With it came a plate of fried pork gyoza, which was probably the best gyoza I had ever eaten. Soft skins with a crispy bottom and a perfectly spiced pork filling, I could have eaten a platter of them. Dipped in soy sauce or sesame dipping oil, I swear by gyoza solving any ailment you have. Hungover? Gyoza will fix it. Down in the dumps? Get some gyoza and all will be solved. Just damn hungry- welcome to gyoza town my friend!

After downing all our sake (we don’t mess about), we opted for a Japanese wine from the Enomatic wines list. If, like me, you didn’t know what enomatic means (don’t be ashamed – I had no idea), it is a type of dispenser which keeps the wine fresh, by stopping oxygen getting into the bottle, meaning you can prevent spoilage and sell high-quality wine by the glass and not the bottle. We opted to continue our Japanese odyssey and we each ordered a glass of the Koshu Private Reserve, from the Grace Winery in the Yamanashi province in Japan and a half pint of Kirin Ichiban beer. Both had great citrus notes to harmonize the food and whilst I’m normally a wine drinker and would have quaffed away happily at the Koshu, the Ichiban beer was fantastic and will be something I drink again, especially with sushi.

Our last savory snack was a gorgeous little plate of beef teriyaki rice, which even on a pretty full stomach, was so good we couldn’t leave a morsel. The beef was incredibly tender, the sauce was sweet and sticky and the rice was perfectly cooked so you can grab it in your chopsticks and devour! For a dessert, we were faced with a curious little green ball, decorated with sliced strawberry. We had to ask what it was, and were told it was green tea flavoured ice cream, but when we got our chopsticks involved, we realised that it was ice cream in the middle of a strange jelly like casing which made my friend laugh a lot as she tried to wrestle with it around her plate. It might not be what I would normally order for a dessert and my past experiences of green tea flavored sweets have never been successful, but this was weirdly delicious. The green tea taste was smooth and subtle, the jelly-like layer was soft and tasty and the ice cream was beautifully creamy. A sweet treat at the end of an outstanding meal.

If you are someone who is a sushi nut like me or even if you haven’t ever tried Japanese food before but wanted an amazing introduction, I cannot recommend Edo Sushi at the Candlebar enough. It has breathed life back into the Japanese food scene in Leeds. Get there as soon as you can… Just leave some for me!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *