And so – as sure as the changing of the seasons – Sunday saw the imposing arm of the Trinity’s crane reach in and pluck out the current crop of food vans from Trinity Kitchen; the burger one, the Japanese one, the ethnic one, and the sweet ones.
The crane is a merciful deity though, and what it takes with one hand, it gives back with another. Our old familiar friends were replaced by fresh new faces; a burger one, Japanese ones, an ethnic one, and a sweet one.
Bringing Tokyo streetfood to Leeds via Scotland, Harajuku Kitchen’s small menu offers a bit of the usual – Gyoza and Miso Soup – as well as something more exotic.
The Okonomiyaki (£3/£5) was billed on the extended menu as “Japanese savoury pancake pizza”, which is a very broad way of saying it’s a pancake with stuff on top of it.
The pancake itself was almost an inch thick, with an eggy batter similar to an omelette binding together shredded cabbage, spring onion and other vegetables. I described it more as a Japanese take on Bubble & Squeak, which I stand by, but they seemed apprehensive to accept the comparison, which I did intend as a compliment.
The pancake was topped with okinomiyaki sauce, wasabi mayo, nori, tuna flakes and coriander, which all complimented the flavour of the pancake very well. At several points while I was eating it, I was reminded of the sweet bread buns from McDonalds (Again, a compliment!), which I’ll attribute to the seasoning in the pancake and the okinomiyaki sauce.
The dish is a bit of a polarising one as it’s not directly comparable to anything you’re likely to have eaten before, but I’d highly recommend giving it a go.
As well as the okinomiyaki (I’m getting really quick at typing that now), we shared 4 Vegetable Gyoza (£3.5) which were very nice. They’re served lightly fried rather than steamed, and come with a sauce which tastes pickled and earthy at the same time. (I didn’t get a picture of them I’m afraid)
Harajuku Kitchen is just one of the carts repping the JP this month; Dorshi sits on the very next plot selling similar Japanese influenced street food with twists characteristic of their Dorset roots – the Godzilla to Harajuku’s Gojira. How’s that for a culturally-aware analogy?! I spoil you guys
These South Coast idiosyncrasies come in the form of regional ingredients – their Pork Dumpling (£4) combines Black Pudding with the pork to give a really rich, satisfying meaty flavour – like the nicest posh sausage roll you’ve ever tasted. Its form-factor elevates it above the sausage roll though – the dumpling was steamed perfectly throughout, cooked enough to eliminate any doughy-ness, but still with a satisfying bite. No flakey pastry stuck in my beard here.
I’m intrigued to try their usual combination of Pork and Dorset Blue Vinney cheese, hopefully at some point in their Trinity residency they’ll decide Leeds can handle it and put it on the menu.
Seeing as the person who served me was really enthusiastic about them, I should quickly mention the condiments they offer. The sriracha didn’t have the same deep red hue that you see in bottled variations which leads me to believe they might make their own. I also tried the Kewpie Mayo on the recommendation that “It’s like crack” (I haven’t really got a point of reference for that, but it was very good mayonnaise). It’s encouraging to see so much enthusiasm about even the small things.
Also on the menu was Kara-Age (£4), which takes the Japanese dish and adds the Western indulgence of a buttermilk-soaking before cooking and Fried “Rice” (£4/2 for £6.5/all 3 for £8.5) which was in fact pearl barley cooked in mushroom stock and served with 5 vegetables.
I didn’t try either of these dishes in an attempt to try as many different places as possible, but based on how good the dumplings were, I’m going to go back and eat everything they make, and will ever make until the end of time. These were really very good dumplings.
Travelling the shortest distance to be here this month is Cafe Moor – a North African/Middle Eastern vendor usually operating from Kirkgate Market. This used to be my usual lunch-break haunt when I worked in town a few years ago, so I’m really glad to see it get such great exposure.
I didn’t eat anything from there last night in the interest of reserving tummy-space for new things, but every time I’ve eaten there in the past it’s been brilliant and very good value for money. They’re also not shy of putting their money where their mouth is; proudly displaying their food on vast, impressive platters to tempt customers and show others what they’re missing.
And it seemed to be working, in the few hours I was there, Cafe Moor looked like the most consistently stall in the place. I’ll be back within the month to get a few treats and do a separate article to do the place justice.
If you’ve read this blog before – or seen me in person, breathlessly tackling an escalator – you’ll know that I’m part of the burger-loving demographic (Which makes up roughly 100% of the population), so imagine my delight when I found out that the Meatwagon was coming to Trinity Kitchen.
For the uninitiated, Meatwagon is the mobile branch of the MEATliquor franchise; its cult, off-Oxford Street restaurant considered by many to serve the best burgers in London. It’s recently emerged that MEATliquor is going to be branching out to Leeds, with the Meatwagon serving to test the water before a restaurant opens in the Summer.
I ordered the Dead Hippie (£8) which contained two mustard-fried patties, cheese, minced onion, and Hippie sauce.
Apparently they bake their own sour-dough buns in the restaurants, but I couldn’t tell if that’s what I received here – by the time it made its 20ft journey to my table, it resembled that McDonalds cheeseburger that you wake up to in your pocket after a night out – and it was indistinguishable from a family BBQ bread roll. It was light though, and thin enough to suggest that its only purpose was to prevent the holders fingers getting too juicy.
That wasn’t to suggest I made it through the burger with clean hands though. The succulent, tasty patties cooked just as I like them, with piquante contrast from the mustard-mayo Hippie Sauce and chunky pickles. I was dripping juices with all the grace and dignity of Brucey Bogtrotter taking on Miss Trunchbull’s chocolate cake; passers-by were gasping, infants were bursting into tears, chaste young women were obstructing their gaze with a hand-fan (probably), and I didn’t give half a shit. This burger was very good.
The jury’s still out on whether this is an £8 burger though. It comes in at a couple of quid more expensive than the competition, but in its defence it does come with 2 patties as standard. Perhaps it would be better to give the option of a single patty version for £6-£6.5, god knows there’s space on their menu…
That’s the menu: Two choices. Meat or no meat. No sides, no fries, no customisation options. And after talking to the manager to get some more information for this review, I found out they’re also got no manners; I was met with hostility when I asked what cuts of meat they used, and the only answer I could get from them was “Mince”.
Naturally I took to My despondency to Twitter, and In fairness MEATliquor did contact me and ask for more information on my exchange with the manager, so maybe they’ll be able to respond with an explanation. Nonetheless, it was really disappointing to encounter this kind of attitude, and really sticks out when compared to other business-owners who are deeply passionate about their food.
UPDATE 28/02: Since my visit I was contacted by MEATliquor and invited to go and meet an area manager for a chat in person. They assured me that it was a one-off and put it down to teething issues, which I’m willing to give them a pass for. The person I met with was happy to talk about the food and the business, showing the kind of genuine passion and enthusiasm that I expected in the first place. All is well again.
Love Rouge Bakery
Another case of a local business getting much-deserved exposure, Love Rouge has upped sticks from their Headingley bakery-slash-cafe to become this month’s dedicated Trinity cake-dealer.
I don’t usually have a sweet tooth and usually avoid desserts all together, but I’ve got a special place in my heart (and in the walls of my arteries) for Carrot Cake (£2.5), likewise my other half with anything salted caramel, so she went for the Chocolate & Salted Caramel Slice (£2.5)
Both were well baked and moist, with a nice bit of crunch on the edges for variety. The slices are pretty huge for £2.50 so you get great value for money. If there was any criticism though, the salted caramel was a bit under-represented in the topping-to-cake ratio.
And there you have it. I hope you think of me and this round-up when you find yourself circling Trinity Kitchen, trying to make your mind up at any point in the next month. Just make sure you don’t trip over my guide-ropes when I’m camped up outside Dorshi.
Full disclosure: The burger from Meatwagon was complimentary of Trinity Kitchen, but this didn’t influence my opinion of any of the food.