HanaMatsuri – Leeds

Slowly but surely Meanwood is becoming a little foodie destination in its own right; there’s of course Zucco, The Hungry Bear, East of Arcadia (which does bloody good pub grub) and now HanaMatsuri – Leeds’ newest sushi restaurant.

With just 8 seats it’s definitely an intimate affair so don’t expect to go bundling in with a big group but it’s everything you want from a Japanese restaurant; bright, light and airy. We were seated at a bench directly opposite the sushi chef so were delivered our sushi over the counter as and when it was ready.

The menu is a mixture of individual sushi (rolls, nigiri, sashimi) so you can pick and choose or if you’re feeling indecisive they also do sushi sets. Seeing as autumn has well and truly set in I opted for a steaming hot Green Tea with Toasted Brown Rice (£0.90) whilst we looked over the menu. I’ve had many a cup of green tea in my time but never with toasted rice; it had almost a savoury popcorn-y flavour to it which worked nicely to whet the appetite.

We started off with my absolute favourite sushi; Inari Nigiri (£1.20 each) – well seasoned sushi rice stuffed into into thin sweet tofu pockets. Delicious and the best I’ve had; even if everything else was horrible I’d still be visiting for these.
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Next was the Blue Fin Tuna Sashimi (£7.50); really beautifully presented and the tuna was so tender the chopsticks could cut through it. The quality of the fish is so apparent in a simple dish like sashimi and HanaMatsuri obviously use some of the best.
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We then moved onto some hosomaki rolls; Avocado (£2.20) and Pickled Radish (£1.90). Both really good value as I’ve been to places that would charge more than double for a similar amount. I tend to like a good balance between fish and veggie sushi when I have it so something as simple as these are perfect for me.
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As soon as we saw the Salmon Skin Roll (£4.50) on the menu we knew we’d be ordering it (hello – crispy salmon skin!) and it did not disappoint. Crunchy, salty salmon skin balanced well with the rice – it’s definitely a must if you’re visiting. We also had the HanaMatsuri Large Roll (£8.50) which is packed with snow crab, avocado, cucumber, tamago (a sort of Japanese omelette) and pickled gourd. If I’m honest not really my thing as the only crab I generally like is soft shell (*regrets again for the 100th time not ordering the spicy soft shell crab roll*) but P enjoyed it and he’s more of a crab fan so don’t let me put you off.
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The last dish we’d ordered (or so we’d thought) was some extra nigiri; Salmon (£2.20), Tamago (£1.50) and Sweet Prawn (£2.50). Like everything else we’d had that evening the rice was seasoned perfectly and the fish really good quality. The tamago was a lot thicker than I’d previously had but seemed more authentic and homemade.
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At this point we were toying with the idea of ordering a few more, which in hindsight we really shouldn’t have as rice is the gift that keeps on giving but never one to pass up an opportunity to eat more we did anyway. We went for the Spicy Salmon Roll (£5.20) and the Pickled Plum & Shiso Leaf Hosomaki (2.50). The salmon roll was a compromise as P wanted to order the crispy salmon skin again but I was adamant I wanted us to try something different. I was right, of course, and the spicy salmon roll was one of the best of the evening. Rich salmon with a really spicy mayonnaise worked perfectly. The plum maki left us both a bit unsure though…very salty & vinegary. Perhaps an acquired taste that I’m not ready for yet.
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All in all HanaMatsuri definitely comes in a very close second for my favourite Meanwood restaurant (Zucco’s Truffle & Mushroom Tagliatelle still defends the title). It’s perfect if you want a fresh, healthy (though maybe not to the extent we ate) and quick dinner. For both of us for dinner (no boozy drinks included) it was around £40 which is great value considering the quality of the fish plus we really didn’t need those extra few rolls.

HanaMatsuri is a very, very welcome addition to Meanwood.

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