TADA – Casual yet elegant Japanese dining

TADA, a pleasantly laid-back Japanese restaurant, was founded by Thomas Chiang this summer. The new eatery took over the site of the former Dare Cafe on Otley Road in the heart of Headingley.

Somehow the opening of this cool spot passed me by, but last week when I was on a run, I saw the restaurant filled with people looking like they were having a great time. So, naturally, I wanted to check it out.

My partner and I headed down to Headingley on one of the wettest days of the year. Whilst it was truly miserable outside, the restaurant looked welcoming, so we didn’t hang about before going inside. We were greeted by one of the members of staff who showed us to our table and sorted us out with some drinks.

We had booked an early table (5:30pm) and already the restaurant had lots of people sitting down, a good sign in my books. Whilst the restaurant felt a little cramped as we navigated to our table, not helped by the fact that we both had very wet jackets and nowhere to put them, once we were seated and had sorted out coat storage (under the table), we both felt calm and were looking forward to our meal.

The menu at TADA is big, but thankfully, it is broken down into several sections, which makes it much easier to manage. We both spent a fair while pouring over the different dishes and plates that we could order, with lots making it to our maybe list. But as we wanted to try a range of different things on the menu and didn’t want to order too many different dishes that we wouldn’t be able to finish, we decided we would share a bento box and some sushi.

The Bento Box

We opted for the niku bento box, priced at £24.90. This meaty box included an array of different plates: keraage chicken (fried chicken), chicken gyoza, takoyaki (Octopus balls), pork belly, beef fillet, chicken teriyaki, tofu kimchi hiyayakko, wakame salad and edamame beans. We also ordered the teriyaki salmon uramaki, priced at £8.90. This is an inside out sushi roll with teriyaki salmon and cucumber filling, served with wasabi and ginger.

As we waited for our food, we looked around the space. We both loved the décor of the restaurant, which had taken inspiration from the vibrant Japanese dining scene. We agreed that it looked and felt like an authentic Japanese eatery, and as my partner has lived in Japan, I thought this was high praise indeed for a restaurant in the north of England. The seating, whilst pretty tightly packed in the space, was comfortable and the tables had everything we needed, including soy sauce.

When the food arrived, we both agreed that it looked amazing. The sushi showed up first, so we were able to tuck in and savour the flavours. My partner isn’t normally a sushi fan, but we both really enjoyed the dish. I particularly liked that the sushi tasted fresh and the salmon was well cooked, despite ‘just’ being the filling for the sushi.

Teriyaki salmon uramaki

When the bento box arrived, we had to rearrange our table as the box was big, composed of 9 sections, one for each of the different plates. We made our way around the box, trying bites of each of the dishes and discussing what we thought. Whilst we enjoyed almost all the different items, we both agreed that our favourite plates were the beef, pork and teriyaki chicken, loving how well the meat had been cooked and the flavours. There were only two dishes that we didn’t rave about, namely the tofu kimchi hiyayakko and the Takoyaki, but it was likely because they were new flavours and textures for us, and I’m sure others would enjoy these dishes. The box overall was of high quality and well presented, and there was a good amount of food for us to share.

Although we both felt satisfied after our meal, we wanted to try something else new, so opted for a dessert of mochi ice cream. Mochi ice cream is a small, round sweet that consists of a soft, pounded, sticky rice dumpling (mochi) formed around an ice cream filling. Despite both of us having travelled in Asia, neither of us had tried them, but my sister has raved about them, so we couldn’t say no. We were given three different mochi: strawberry, chocolate (we think), and vanilla. The mochi were served with fresh raspberries and white chocolate sauce. We both loved them and thought that they made a great conclusion to our meal – light and refreshing.

Overall, whilst TADA may be on the slightly more expensive side of restaurants in Headingley, the quality, care and deliciousness of the food is well worth it. We both walked out of the restaurant happy and planning our next visit. If you are planning on heading over to TADA, I’d recommend that you book a table as we saw a few people who were without reservations being turned away.

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