Feature Pan-Asian Restaurant Awards 2010
We put the city's Asian eateries to the test
Feature: Pan-Asian Restaurant Awards 2010
Are you ever unsure where to spend your hard-earned cash on a meal out in our fine city? Help is at hand, as we’ve put five of Leeds’ Pan-Asian eateries to the test: East (in Pudsey), Thai Erawan (in Oakwood), Sukhothai (in Chapel Allerton), Thai Edge (city centre) and Chino Latino (city centre). We put our critical hats on and went for a three course meal at each venue, keeping a keen eye out to uncover the restaurants’ best features, as well as how they can make themselves even better for the discerning diners of this city. Read on to find out our current top tips for Pan-Asian eating in Leeds…
Bill (three courses with drinks): £45
Expectations are high as we head to East Bar Lounge & Grill in Pudsey. You just have to glance at their entrance to see they have a great reputation, as banners publicise their impressive awards history. The restaurant is not just famed for its award-winning food, but for having the only rooftop bar outside of the city centre; Pudsey may not be synonymous with fine dining and rooftop bars, but East are certainly trying to change this. My partner and I are seated quickly in front of a pianist who serenades the diners at his grand piano. The décor is plush and modern and the atmosphere relaxed.
Our order is taken shortly after we sit down and we opt for Shammi Kebab (£3.25) – which turns out to be an interesting combination of minced, spiced chicken and omelette – and King Prawn Garlic (£6.95), which has the largest prawns I’ve ever seen and is beautifully presented. Despite their generous size, both starters are scoffed quickly, as we agree they were delicious with just the right amount of spice. For mains we opt for the rich Lamb Monty (£9.95) and even richer Chicken Tikka Machani (£9.95), both of which are so rich and generously portioned that we can’t finish them. Although the Machani may have been a tad too creamy for our taste, the Lamb Monty is delicious.
If we have to find fault, the only disappointment of the evening is the lack of choice when it comes to desserts. We share a slice of New York Cheesecake (£3.50), which again is very generous in size. The restaurant is easy to find, has lots of parking and is even a good option if you just fancy a cocktail in the sun on their rooftop bar.
Walking into this classy first-floor restaurant, you half expect Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson to be tucking into a plate of sushi in a secluded corner: it’s all clean edges, minimalist blacks and reds, low lighting; a small piece of Tokyo in the heart of Leeds. Yet it achieves a welcoming and unstuffy feel, thanks to the friendly waiting staff and relaxed atmosphere.
The presentation of the food is superb. Each of our dishes is laid out beautifully, the chef showing supreme confidence in the quality of the produce, with no unnecessary adornments. Starters of scallops with apple and mustard dressing (£10), and sweet potato dumplings with sesame seeds and green miso (£7), are super-fresh and perfectly trigger our appetites, as good appetisers should. A main course of fillet steak with three sauces (£23) is beautifully flavoursome, the truffle sauce in particular working a treat with the tender morsels of meat. A refreshingly imaginative vegetarian main of butternut squash with green tea noodles, cashew nuts and bok choi (£14) offers interesting, slightly smoky flavours. And desserts of pear tart (£5.50) and green tea crème brulée with coconut macaroons and ginger ice cream (£5.50) are excellent, the latter in particular is faultless.
Prices at Chino Latino are at the upper end, which leaves little room for error; diners’ expectations always increase in line with cost. Unfortunately on our visit, one or two food items on the menu and our choice of wines are not available – a pear tart takes the place of the plum tart listed on the menu; a Chenin Blanc is replaced with a white Rioja; sake takes the place of plum wine. Although the replacements are more than adequate, and our waitress is extremely helpful, you’re given the feeling that a restaurant we’ve previously found to be exceptional may currently be in a period of transition. And when you’re paying top dollar to really treat yourself, you want everything to be perfect. But Chino Latino has nevertheless delivered some highly impressive food.
Park Plaza, Boar Lane, Leeds, LS1 5NS. Tel: 0113 380 4080
Having spent some time in Thailand and experienced the food first-hand, we are pleasantly surprised to find that Thai Edge manages to deliver the genuine taste of Thai food, with little compromise, for the diners of Leeds.
We have great pleasure in finding the sweetcorn cakes (£5) light, despite being fried, and a perfect appetiser for the main course gaeng mussaman pak curry (£7.80). This meat-free curry has plenty of vegetables and the sauce is creamy, nutty and perfect with the Thai jasmine rice ordered as a side dish. The only tiny complaint would be that we could handle a touch more spice in the sauce, but the flavour far outweighs this minor, and personal, quibble. A starter of chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce (£7) is perfectly cooked and very light and fresh. The presentation is impeccable; each starter comes with its own hand-carved fruit flower. The chicken and ginger stir-fry (£7.90) is a light, fresh and very, very tasty main course; again, the personal palate calls for an extra pang of spiciness, but everything is perfectly cooked and an absolute treat to devour.
A passion fruit and mango sorbet (£4.25) for dessert is impressive in terms of presentation, even if the kitsch hundreds and thousands may not be to everyone’s aesthetic taste! The sorbet contains chunks of mango and is served with lashings of mango sauce. The more ominously named chocolate puddle pudding (£5.25) turns out to be a dish presented to perfection, the chocolate sponge topped with chocolate mousse being served with cream, wafers and chocolate sauce. The flavours are also top-notch.
The décor in Thai Edge combines traditional Thai artwork with contemporary lighting and makes for a fresh and inviting atmosphere. Dressed in traditional Thai clothes, the waitresses are perfectly groomed and very quick and attentive. Considering that it is busy on our visit (even early evening on a Monday), we feel that we are very well looked after and head away feeling extremely satisfied, and certain that we will be back very soon.
Both branches of Sukhothai are very well regarded in Leeds, so we arrive expecting very good things when we visit the Chapel Allerton branch on a Monday evening. We are greeted by a friendly waitress, so far so good, and shown to a window table. Indeed, the service throughout turns out to be faultless and we are pleased to note the huge selection of vegetarian dishes on the menu.
The spring rolls (£3.75) pack a punch – wasabi, we think – and the tofu (£3.75) is cooked well. A main course of pad pak prik Thai dam (£6.95, stir-fried veg with cracked black pepper) is similarly strong tasting, thus lacking in subtlety, and whereas the menu stated shitake mushrooms, we note the presence of only the button variety. The green curry (£6.95) is very tasty, though the egg fried rice chosen as an accompaniment is quite dry and lacking in the fluffiness you would expect from freshly cooked rice. The noodles are good and, served as they are with egg and bean sprouts, could almost have made a meal on their own; pretty good at £3.25.
For dessert, the sorbet (£3.50) is juicy and refreshing – though the hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top smack a little of kids’ parties – but the banana crepe (£3.50) is more like a spring roll than a pancake, and a little tough.
Subtle flavours and inspired combinations this is not, but the excellent service and low prices make it clear why there are only a couple of tables unoccupied when we leave at 9pm.
As we find ourselves arriving at Thai Erawan early on a Sunday night, a few diners are already in the restaurant enjoying a nice relaxed atmosphere. Considering it’s World Cup final night, we take this as a good sign. Seated at the table, our drinks orders are taken promptly and we are taken through the specials and recommendations from the menu.
To start we have satay gai, which are chicken skewers with a peanut sauce, and gar dook moo, which is pork spare ribs in a special sauce. When we come to place the order, it is helpfully suggested we get the hot platter (£9.95) that works out at roughly the same price but which also includes spring rolls, fish cakes and mixed vegetables in batter. When the dish arrives it is beautifully laid out and smells intoxicating. The chicken skewers are tender and coated in a flavoursome marinade, with the sauce complementing them beautifully. The pork ribs again were marinated well, however we find them to be a little too fatty, although this is a personal preference.
We both opt for recommendations for our mains: I have the chicken pad nam prik pao (£8.50), which is a stir-fry with chilli oil, onion, carrots, mushrooms, mixed peppers, spring onion and sweet basil. This is a very pleasant dish, although nothing compared with my partner’s brilliant chef’s special of sirloin steak topped with massaman curry sauce (£11.95). This is tender, tasty and filling. We have sticky rice to accompany both dishes.
Feeling very full and content, we share a Thai pancake (£3.95) for dessert, again on recommendation. This has to be one of the best Pan-Asian desserts we have ever tasted: sweet, soft and full of flavour. It’s been an extremely enjoyable meal at Thai Erawan – and what really stands out is the exceptionally warm, attentive and helpful service we have received. A return visit is a certainty.
629 Roundhay Road, Oakwood, Leeds, LS8 4AR. Tel: 0113 240 1010
As you can see from our reviews, the five restaurants impressed us in different areas. Depending on your mood or your budget, you certainly won’t have a problem finding tasty Asian food in Leeds. But after much consideration, we agreed unanimously on this year’s award winners. Cue drum roll…
Best Pan-Asian Restaurant 2010: Thai Edge
Runner-up: Thai Erawan
Congratulations Thai Edge! Given the stiff competition - especially from the excellent Thai Erawan - Thai Edge, erm, edged it, thanks to a thoroughly consistent performance across all areas and for serving us extremely flavoursome, authentic food. Well done Thai Edge, you are crowned The Leeds Guide’s Best Pan-Asian Restaurant 2010!
We can’t finish without giving credit where credit’s due for other notable performers: Sukhothai provided great value for money, with surprisingly low prices; the staff at Thai Erawan gave us the most fantastic service of all, along with very tasty food; East delivered a cracking starter with those succulent jumbo king prawns, and a wallet-friendly bill; and Chino Latino’s food was beautifully presented throughout, with the desserts on our visit - in particular the crème brulée - wowing our judges.
Other recommended Asian restaurants in Leeds
Leeds is blessed with a fine selection of Pan-Asian restaurants that are well worth a visit. Chaophraya rightly deserves its reputation for some of the best Thai food and impeccable service in the country. Or for a budget but tasty Thai meal, you can’t go far wrong with Jino’s Thai Café in Headingley or Guiseley; also in Headingley you’ll be pleased to find the friendly neighbourhood restaurant of Thai Sabai. If Indian is more your thing, there is a beguiling number of quality eateries in and around the city, some of which include Akbar’s, Aagrah and Shabab in the city centre, or the fantastic Sheesh Mahal restaurants in Kirkstall and Chapel Allerton. For Indian dining with a modern twist, head to the excellent Bird at Alea Casino or Café Guru at Brewery Wharf. For Japanese food, you have Wasabi Tepanyaki at Granary Wharf, while also in the city centre you’ve got Fuji Hiro or the ever popular Little Tokyo. If Chinese is more your thing, Red Chilli is a top choice, Maxi’s in Kirkstall is a long-running local favourite, while Oriental City, Tong Palace, D-Fusion and Ho’s Bar and Restaurant are popular eateries in and around the city centre. Finally, for a good overall spread of fresh Pan-Asian dishes at wallet-friendly prices, you can’t go far wrong with Tampopo.
Posted on Wednesday 21st July 2010
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Comments on Feature: Pan-Asian Restaurant Awards 2010
Comment by Matt SmithPosted on Fri 23rd Jul 10 11:36 am
Very surprised Baan Thai in Morley wasn’t on the list. I personally think it is just as good if not better then Sukhothai.
Comment by Joanna TurnerPosted on Fri 23rd Jul 10 11:46 am
Also very surprised that Baan Thai (Morley) doesn’t get a mention. It’s a hidden gem! It’s not as flash as the City centre eateries but has all the charm of an authentic Thai restaurant.
Comment by Tony SinghPosted on Sat 24th Jul 10 11:59 pm
I don’t think your food reviewers or lol critics have a clue!!! Baan Thai is very good and should have been included, Sukothai is very very good with great flavours and tatstes, Wasabi my ass - Thai Edges is nice, and Erawan is renowned to be awful, Chino Latino average and expensive. I note all veggie dishes too - what about us meat lovers…..
Comment by Guy ClaytonPosted on Sun 25th Jul 10 12:52 am
I tend to agree with Tony. Really what a farce…....with the exception that I really enjoy Chino Latino, a period of transition….what the hell…they are consistently good.Re Sukhothai, is always hard to beat, and this is where I have been dining for 8 years. I lived in Thailand for 3 years and can definitely say that they are the closest thing to real authentic thai food in UK, with Thai prices too. Thai Edge is nice and is up there with the best but Erawan is a diabolical bland experience. Sukhothai really is hard to beat in my book and 1000’s of regular customers and many critics will attest to this, Baan Thai in Morley is also very good.and worth a visit. East is also very very good, but not really fair to compare them against oriental restaurants is it?
Comment by Simon GoldblumPosted on Mon 26th Jul 10 9:23 am
Hello, just to clarify the way our Pan Asian awards work. The awards were open to Leeds restaurants serving Asian cuisine. We contacted a few restaurants that we considered some of the best in the area and asked them to take part, the ones we covered were the ones that accepted our invitation.
The restaurants were then judged by a surprise visit from a pair of judges. Unfortunately, the nature of this form of judging means that if a restaurant has a bad day, or serves a bad dish, they will come away with a poor report, as is the case with any restaurant review. Although our judge’s did their best to be fair, the views on each restaurant are just one person’s opinion from one visit, and not meant to be viewed as a definitive guide to which restaurants are the best/worst.
Comment by Ed WebbPosted on Tue 27th Jul 10 5:39 am
I’ve not been to all the restaurants reviewed but I do think the adverse comments on Thai Erawan are unfair. The restaurant has new owners and menu from around April. Previously the service was very slow, now it’s excellent, and the quality of the ingredients has also improved.
Comment by Tom ClayPosted on Thu 29th Jul 10 4:37 pm
commenting to the idiot ed webb the thai erawan was better now than b4 total rubbish i have been numerous times and the food now isnt that good me and my family went b4 weekly and the food was faultless sometimes a little slow when packed on sat but infrequent