In the past month or so I’ve been getting out and about in Leeds and jumping two feet first into the city’s incredible restaurant scene. I have a list as long as my hand of places that I want to try out, but after reading and hearing so much about Issho, it quickly jumped straight to the top of my foodie hit list. Last Friday Scott and I went along to Issho for the launch of their Kori Live nights and to try out the Kori Bar food menu. Keep reading for the full lowdown on this stylish Japanese restaurant in Leeds.
Tucked away in a high corner of Victoria Gate (Leeds’ newest and most luxurious shopping centre) you will find Issho. Hidden from the busy streets of Leeds with only a subtle sign to indicate it’s location, Issho is a place for people in-the-know. Our table was booked for 7.30pm and we couldn’t wait to welcome the weekend with some cocktails and sharing dishes.
First Impressions on Issho
On first impressions of entering Issho, the ambience and chic interiors made it feel similar to London’s high-end restaurants (which is no surprise as Issho is part of the D&D London restaurant group). The Executive Chef Ben Orpwood also hails from two of London’s top restaurants; Zuma and Sexy Fish. A hostess asked for our booking name, offered to take my coat and showed us to our table. The service was personable and incredibly efficient from the moment we arrived.
Instead of eating in the main restaurant, we wanted to try out Issho’s new Kori Bar food menu. The concept of this menu is all about sharing and features about 12 different small plates that have been taken from Issho’s main restaurant menu. Scott and I love to share food and try lots of different things so this worked well for us.
We started with a cocktail. I chose the Issho Twinkle because it basically included all of my favourite flavours in a cocktail (Ketel one vodka, st. germain elderflower liqueur, elderflower cordial, sugar syrup, muddled cucumber and mint leaves, topped with prosecco). Scott chose the Ume which went down equally as well (Havana especial run, plum liqueur, plum sake, pomegranate juice and lemon).
Ordering food from the Kori Bar menu felt much more laid back compared to a formal dining experience in the restaurant. The waiter suggested we should pick a few dishes to begin with then order more rounds if we were still hungry. For round 1 we chose crackers with pea guacamole, steamed and salted edemame, grilled shitake mushrooms in chive butter, chicken karaage, yakitori chicken and beef fillet with smoked chilli.
All the dishes came in bite-sized portions and the meat plates came on two skewers. I was intrigued by the asian crackers with ‘pea guacamole’ and they turned out to be one of my favourite dishes. The guacamole was absolutely delicious and this would be the perfect nibble if you’re only planning to come for drinks. The waitress told us that the chicken karaage was very popular, so we went for that too. The pieces of deep fried chicken were incredibly tasty but other than the accompanying wasabi mayo it didn’t seem particularly Japanese to me so I probably wouldn’t order that again.
The chicken yakitori and beef fillet skewers were flavoursome and tender, but we both agreed that the yakitori was our favourite. We decided to go for round 2 and ordered two more plates of the yakitori along with the the padron peppers which also came on skewers. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not but the peppers were a bit of a Russian roulette on the spicy scale. One was super-spicy then the next would be fairly mild. Whatever the intention, they were fun to eat. Other dishes on the Kori Bar Menu include smoked tuna tartar, seared salmon with wasabi leaf dressing and sweet soy glazed duck hearts.
As we grazed through our plates the live music started which was a gorgeous acoustic set from resident musicians Mali Hayes and George Holiday. Their acoustic versions of pop and jazz songs were soulful and relaxing and definitely added something extra to the evening. We stayed at Issho for the whole evening to enjoy more drinks and ended up bumping into the lovely Em Sheldon, a fellow Leeds Blogger who was also enjoying drinks in the Kori Bar.
The Verdict on Issho
My first experience at Issho Leeds did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded all my expectations. Dining at the Kori Bar made the experience feel much more relaxed compared to the formal restaurant dining and it was the perfect setting for a romantic date night. All dishes on the Kori Bar menu are incredibly well put together but my only criticism is that I think the pricing is quite inconsistent e.g. the crackers with pea guacamole and the yakitori both cost £4, whilst the soy glazed duck hearts cost £3.50. I couldn’t understand why the crackers cost more than the duck.
However, after living in London for 4 years, I can confirm that the food at Issho is way up there with the likes of Hakkasan, Novikov and Zuma, but the best part? It’s in Leeds! I will definitely be returning to Issho again soon, hopefully to try their bubbles and bao brunch. Whether it’s for a first or 100th date, Issho’s Kori Live Nights promise a sexy atmosphere, delicious food and live music.
What did you think of my review of Issho Leeds? Is it on your restaurant shortlist too? If your mouth is drooling and you enjoyed this post, please leave me a comment in the box below x
3rd Floor Rooftop
I was hosted at Issho on a complimentary basis in exchange for this restaurant review. All views are my own.