It seems strange to say that some of our favourite foods, only a few years ago, were unknown to many British palates. One famous old dish that took centuries to reach Yorkshire tongues is the traditional Japanese ramen. Now, like other major cities in the UK, Leeds is catching up on what it has been missing, with a choice of great ramen places offering their own variations of these sumptuous and cleansing noodle soups.
As Friends of Ham hook up tomorrow with Holy Ramen – a tasty pop-up serving superbly studied bowls of ramen in food and drink hub Assembly Underground – to put on an evening of Japanese fusion and pairing, we wondered whether now was the time to take a look at Leeds’ other places turning Japanese. I really think so.
Despite being a relatively new phenomenon to these shores, Leeds has been ahead of the ramen trend, thanks in particular to one Japanese restaurant that has been serving its home delicacies since the turn of the millennium. Little Tokyo is a beautiful visit, both elegantly pretty and relaxed in comfort. In its twentieth year, the menu is equally healthy and indulgent, providing a peak into Japanese gourmet cuisine with a Yorkshire heart. Beyond the sushis and bento boxes are large bowls of homemade miso broth, filled with chicken or seafood or tofu, plus the usual egg, veg, and noodles to suck in. Still a true city favourite.
Even before this, in the last century no less, Leeds already had a casual Japanese eatery serving the good stuff to those in the know. Fuji Hiro opened its charming rustic space at the back of the Merrion Centre in 1997 and has the same unpretentious social feel that only a place dishing up quality can emit. As well as introducing katsu curries and yaki sobas to the city, there are of course steaming bowls of ramen that comfort the soul in the most satisfying way.
Both of those old-timers have been joined recently by several more ramen specialists, and with the quality on offer, the influx is welcome indeed. One such restaurant opened last year opposite Leeds University on a row that homes some surprisingly authentic eateries. Noodlesta carries this theme on, serving bargain broths in a slick setting that equally soothe and sizzle. Having expanded from Sheffield to move here, it’s easy to see why, in quality and quantity, this is already becoming a student favourite.
On New Briggate, Sushi Waka does what its name suggests, serving an impressive range of delicate sushi to Leeds revellers. But the swish space also offers a more nourishing option through a bowl of their densely brothed pork bone ramen, with a menu of belly or katsu particularly pleasing.
Great George Street is another food hotspot on the edge of town that now hosts several enjoyable stop-offs. Senbon Sakura has been cooking up excellent Japanese cuisine there for the last three years, and alongside the nation’s more refined plates, it continues to dish up a mighty ramen. Whether you choose from vegetable tempura, chilli chicken, or spicy seafood, you’ll likely leave feeling revitalised.
Expect more ramen slurping still to come in Leeds too. House of Fu have popped up with supper clubs at the likes of Ox Club before and have been planning to open a permanent ramen joint in town. Little Bao Boy are the resident chefs at North Bar, and occasionally host ramen evenings, much like Holy Ramen are doing at Friends of Ham. You hereby have our permission to feed your ramen addiction by checking out all of the above.