OBA Kitchen & Bar – Inventive Korean and Japanese Fusion

Ask any Leeds local for dining recommendations, and chances are one of them will mention Wade Lane. Home to foodie favourites My Thai and Fuji Hiro, those in the know flock here for a good feed. But there’s a new kid on the block – quite literally – OBA kitchen & bar.

Situated in a former office block, OBA blends together Korean and Japanese dishes in an inventive fusion menu which my dining companion and I couldn’t wait to try. On arrival, we were amazed to see the building had been transformed into a bright, modern, and industrial space, with splashes of colour. The bar, bedecked in emerald green subway tiles, was framed by neat bottles of plum, grapefruit and white grape juice. White marbled tables provided a calming contrast to the bright blue and yellow chairs which spanned the restaurant. Large windows down one side of the room flooded it with natural light, illuminating the gallery wall opposite, adorned with quirky mismatched artwork. A second airy floor upstairs provided more seating, including larger tables for groups or events.

Having been greeted and shown to the table by our lovely waitress, we perused the menu. There were two available at the time we visited (around 2pm) – a lunch menu where one could choose a starter and main for £12, and a main menu, which we chose from. As mentioned before, OBA is a fusion restaurant, offering both Korean and Japanese dishes, with over 70% of the menu being suitable for vegans. Starters included kimchi and tomato soup, whitebait with cumin and chilli, and a selection of sushi – I have vowed to return for the wonderful sounding shiitake mushroom & truffle soy nigiri. Mains are extensive. Think ginger pork belly with ginger sauce, spring onion and sesame, or classic Nobu style black cod miso.

After taking a while to decide (it seriously all seemed amazing), we settled on our order. Our starters of hiyayako – cold soft tofu and lotus crisps with ginger, spring onion & soy – and honey butter fried chicken, arrived swiftly. When I say I forgot I was working and attempted to dive into the honey butter chicken pre-photo, perhaps, dear reader, you may understand just how mesmerising it looked. Juicy tender chicken thighs coated in a crunchy, crackly honey-butter batter and deep fried until crisp and steaming. Unreal. The hiyayako was beautifully delicate, refreshing, and an excellent pairing to cut through the unctuous chicken.

Our mains arrived shortly after – I think food is served as soon as it’s ready, which is fabulous in my book – and were equally as showstopping. The veggie bibimbap arrived theatrically sizzling in a stone bowl, and as we watched, the manager of the restaurant coated the dish in a Korean sweet chilli and miso sauce and mixed it all together tableside. It was the perfect mixture of sweet, sticky, savoury and moreish. My unagi donburi – fresh eel fillets with Japanese eel sauce, schimi powder and rice – came soon after, packaged in a beautiful painted box. The eel was cooked perfectly (if you haven’t tried it, think a milder mackerel or a meatier sea bass), and the sauce was divine – rich with umami. A little fresh seaweed salad on the side was the perfect addition and palate cleanser.

After we had finished, the restaurant manager brought us over some delicious complementary chicken, spring onion & sesame balls that his chef had been developing for the menu, which was a thoughtful and kind gesture, despite us fearing we may bust through our trouser seams at any point.

The drinks list is extensive, offering a good range of the classics like beers, cocktails, new & old world wines and softs – with some more traditional offerings such as Korean sake and Woongjin rice milk. We ordered a white grape juice and a raspberry and lemonade mocktail, both of which were deliciously refreshing.

We were surprised to hear that OBA had been open for just 4 weeks. The restaurant had the warm, capable and efficient feel of one open for much longer. Service was open and attentive, the food was interesting, full of flavour and generously portioned, and both my partner and I left planning our next visit. OBA is a welcome addition to Wade Lane. Do visit, but for goodness’ sake, save me some honey butter chicken!

Gamsa haeyo, OBA!

Unit 2, Wade Lane, LS2 8NG, 0113 244 2956, https://www.obaleeds.co.uk

Photography by Asli Champion.

Ruby Anne Blair

Ruby is a Dietetics student at Leeds Beckett University. In her spare time she loves cooking, petting strangers' dogs, exploring new and old favourite restaurants, and pub-hopping in and around Leeds. (If you see her, she’ll have a pint of Guinness - cheers!)

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