Japanese food in Leicester is really starting to grow. Many places are opening inspired by the food from the land of the rising sun. Wakaze is one that we’ve had our eye on now for some time. A quiet restaurant in a prominent position, Wakaze always looks tempting, this time we made it in.
After our experience at Caddyshackers, we headed to a place called Kokoro – a Japanese/Korean influenced casual restaurant. They had run out of Katsu curry but still had Korean Beef Bulgogi available.
My instincts kicked in as instead of a freshly made portion, they simply plucked the cup of pre-made Bulgogi and rice from under the heat lamps and stuck it in the microwave. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
So after dodging a bullet at Kokoro, we weren’t giving up on Japanese food in Leicester that quickly. Wandering around the city at lunchtime, we stopped by at Wakaze for a bite to eat. As soon as you enter the restaurant it really gives off that relaxed Japanese vibe.
The wooden tables and stools along with an open kitchen and Japanese chefs is a comforting sight. The waitress kindly handed us menus and explained various points of the Wakaze experience, a really nice touch. The hardest part is trying to decide what to have.
I was really taken by the bento boxes. Effectively, this is Japanese tapas or an old-school packed lunch. Small portions of various dishes in assorted combinations. I opted for the Ichiban bento at £11.80 – a box filled with breaded fried chicken, teriyaki chicken, two gyoza, rice, cucumber rolls and salad.
Ali drifted slightly away from Japan with her choice of Korean Fried Rice with Pork and Kimchi at £7.80. To go with our lunch, we ordered two Tsingtao beers reminiscent of what we used to drink in Hong Kong – a light beer that goes really well with food.
My bento had the added bonus of arriving with miso soup as a sort of pre-starter. I’ve had hit and miss miso soups before but this one was a definite hit. Great flavour and balance from the seaweed, tofu, bonito flakes and of course miso. Some versions of miso soup can be very watery and not that flavoursome, this was a welcome change.
Our lunch hit the table looking very inviting. The bento was just beautiful. The Japanese way of precision in presentation was evident in this box – perfectly formed gyoza, crispy chicken and skilfully made easy-on-the-eye sushi. I had a feeling that this was going to be good.
My feeling was correct, this is up there with the best Japanese food that I’ve ever eaten. Cooking rice is in the Japanese DNA, it really was perfectly done both under the gyoza and in the sushi rolls. The super crunchy fried chicken is simply addictive – I could nail a box of that on its own.
Teriyaki chicken often comes with a weak sauce in my experience. Here you could taste the strong flavours of soy, mirin and sake, just the way it should be. The salad had a dressing that tasted a lot like salad cream but I recognised it to be Japanese mayonnaise, possibly Kewpie that has more of a salad dressing taste to it.
Overall, if you’re going to order any box, make it this one. I sat back full and satisfied after finishing it. How about the Korean Pork? Well i’m glad to say that this also was superbly done. The kimchi added both sour flavour and spice to perfectly cooked rice and pieces of pork. Another dish well worth ordering.
The range of dishes on the menu will give you a tricky selection process. Many customers in the restaurant were Japanese. All were enjoying bowls of noodles, rice and sushi.
Wakaze is becoming a popular spot for a casual lunch or simple dinner. The food here is both delicious and authentic. With the whole experience costing £26 they may have just gained a couple of regulars on this showing.
Opening Times: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 1100-2200
Friday, Saturday – 1100-2230
Nearest Train Station: Leicester