Anja Madhvani is usually wary of restaurants that lump an assortment of cuisines into several small plates
Should you ever wish to make me deeply uncomfortable in just a few short words, then here is all the ammunition you need: ‘Pan-Asian small plates’. Just the thought of it makes my palms sweat. To lay claim to the food of an entire continent and sling it into one kitchen is problematic. My issue is that in clumping many cuisines into one category, we encourage a blinkered view of a diverse range of peoples and cuisines, we ‘other’ entire nations with such generalisations.
As such, I approach Power, Corruption and Lies with trepidation. Maybe I should cancel, let someone else get the scoop. But no, I want to be won over, to change my mind. And in some respects this place does.
Chef knows how to rest a steak, I like him
Akito Bar Groups’ latest venture opened in the old Norman Bar site on Call Lane, and what a transformation. Original brickwork has been revealed and is framed by exposed steelwork. The interiors are bright and minimal, leather chairs add royal blue accents, and floral touches nod towards the artwork of the New Order album the venue takes its name from.
The 40 ft bar is the main feature with an open kitchen at one end. The shelves showcase a well-curated selection of spirits. I like this, no bar needs to list 100 gins or whiskies.
We start with a couple of cocktails, I’m glad to see low and alcohol-free choices listed near the front of the menu, as some real thought has gone into these options. A ‘Bangkok Has Him Now’ (£9.00) with coriander, ginger, coconut and basil, is fragrant with a boozy kick.
We order a selection of plates which arrive as and when ready. I’m relieved to see that nowhere on the menu is there any mention of ‘Asian slaw’.
First up is grilled squash (£6.50) in a yellow curry sauce, reminiscent of a decent satay; lemongrass, coconut, coriander. The sauce is silky and the dish is dressed with yoghurt and dukkah, an ‘Asian’ take on an Egyptian seasoning, not confusing at all.
Five Spice Pork Belly Bao (£6.00) could do with a touch more seasoning, but the pickles cut through the meaty flavour, and the pork is wonderfully tender. The bao itself is fluffy and cloud-like with just a touch of chewiness. It’s a top bun.
Chicken Gyoza (£6.50) are ever so slightly undercooked, so the pastry is raw in parts. A real shame as the dumplings are a sort of gyoza-kiev hybrid, and surprisingly I love this idea. Garlic butter pours out, the chicken is well seasoned and there’s a sprinkling of crispy chicken skin that I’m absolutely on board with.
8oz rump cap (£11.00) is next. Chef knows how to rest a steak, I like him. It’s dressed with fried capers, new for me, and the texture and acidity combined is a pleasant surprise. Shiso cress and red amaranth bring spice and earthy character, and dollops of garlic aioli are always welcome.
Salmon tartare (£11.00) is delicate and light, with yuzu tabasco adding a gentle kick. The dice on the fish is chunky and enjoyable. The prawn crackers served with this were overpowering, but overall the dish is pretty and tasty.
Perhaps the disappointment of the meal is the XO Prawns (£13) which are served with a fetching but fibrous salad, consisting mostly of woody, overgrown parsley. The prawns themselves are cooked well, but there is so much bacon flavour that they are lost, a bit of a travesty. The fermented chilli flavour doesn’t really shine though, the sauce is a little one dimensional.
Apple Pie Tempura (£6.00) is the sweet treat I didn’t know I was missing. Granny Smith slices are tempuraed and coated generously with light brown sugar. Soy caramel is a happy union of sticky sweet and umami, and a luxurious vanilla ice cream brings the two together. It’s a playful meeting of texture, temperature, salt, sugar, and acidity. I mean this in the best way, this is what you always wished the McDonalds Apple pie was.
We finish with a couple of alcohol-free cocktails and a coffee. It’s nice to have something so well crafted without the booze.
I feel that Power, Corruption & Lies does itself a disservice in marketing itself as Pan-Asian. This conjures images of congealed sweet and sour chicken served alongside a bang average Pad Thai, and their offering is far from this. The menu features truffles and little nods towards European favourites, and for the most part is very well executed.
What this place does well is make ‘exotic’ (I hate myself) flavours accessible, showcasing some exciting ingredients in a new format. I would certainly pop back for the playlist of disco hits. It even has the staff tapping their toes at the pass.
Power, Corruption and Lies, 36 Call Lane, Leeds LS1 6DT
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Squash 5, Pork Bao 7, Chicken Gyoza 6, Rump Steak Cap 6, Salmon Tartare 8, XO Prawns 5, Apple Pie Tempura 9
Attentive, knowledgeable, friendly. Good dancing.
Quiet afternoon visit, but great music and interiors