Don Starkey checks out the magic of Ivy Asia Leeds and discovers a restaurant that is living up to its hype and still delivering incredible food in one of the most atmospheric settings imaginable.
Walking into Ivy Asia on a cold and rainy Tuesday night in November is very much how Alice must have felt as she tumbled down that rabbit hole into the mystical world of Wonderland.
For if it’s theatre, an explosion of colour, magical food and a sublime sensory overload you’re after, then come on in, because this mind-blowing technicolour reconstruction of a lost continent, has surely got your name on it.
Having firmly planted its samurai sword into the Yorkshire food scene after arriving in Leeds last year, The Ivy Asia is still packing a mighty big punch and for those yet to try it, it’s an experience you won’t regret and remains one of our favourite haunts.
From the moment you enter, The Ivy Asia is visually stunning. Stealing the show and providing the design highlight, is the eye-catching luminous green agate flooring, which flows across the bar and restaurant as effortlessly as the immaculate servers do.
There are vibrant red and gold dragons, flying fish, a beautiful cherry blossom tree and that’s before you come face-to-face with a Samurai warrior standing by the urinals, giving you the dead eye.
It’s a place designed to send your senses into overdrive and one that always delivers even before the food arrives.
While putting style over substance has often been the demise of so many restaurants, the team at Ivy Asia has created a menu that is just as mind-blowing as the décor and takes your taste buds kicking and screaming on a gastronomic rollercoaster.
To get the party started, we settled on a couple of cocktails and The Dragon Gimlet and Coco and Peach Sour didn’t disappoint as we eagerly awaited the arrival of a steady stream of sizzling, steaming and smoking dishes that made up our Sake Sensation tasting menu for the night.
Each course is accompanied by an Akashi-tai sake pairing which perfectly enhances the dining experience and raised our mood even higher with every sip.
The delight of The Ivy Asia is that many of their dishes come in a tapas-style size making it the perfect way to indulge in a menu that mesmerises and delights in equal measure.
A mouth-watering beef tataki with tosazu, yellow-tail sushi and seared salmon nigiri started the ball rolling and things only got better as prawn tempura and pork and kimchi dumplings followed.
But it was the third course of black cod and salt and pepper beef which was cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth that sent the taste buds to a different stratosphere. Accompanied by steamed rice and broccoli with a sesame dressing, it was quite simply, perfection on a plate.
And if you’ve got room to move let alone eat anything else, the Red Dragon dessert is a fitting finale to the show.
Arriving billowing out smoke, it’s a sweet sensation you’ll find hard to resist as soft ice cream, cinnamon sugared doughnuts with chocolate, mango and raspberries collide majestically.
While a cold November Tuesday in Yorkshire will never compare to a night in Tokyo, Seoul or Beijing, a visit to Ivy Asia Leeds is about as close as you’ll come and is a stunning nod to the sights, sounds and flavours of the Far East and Asia.