Quiet, snug Sakura offers attention and good food

July 11, 2004|by E.T. MOORE

My dining companions and I were stumped when we went to Sakura - but in a good way.

Sakura means "cherry blossom" or "cherry tree" and is pronounced "sah-koo-rah," with equal emphasis on all syllables (not "sah-KUR-ah")

Dining Companion 1, Dining Companion 2 and I digested the 160-plus menu choices before we decided.

On the bountiful menu, everything was colorful, everything looked delicious. It took longer than we planned to pick something.

Our efforts were rewarded. When our orders arrived, they were as appetizingly prepared and arranged as we expected, or perhaps better.

Sakura doesn't have it easy. Relatively new, it's competing with the more established and more visible House of Kobe on Dual Highway, with its entertaining hibachi grills.


Sakura is snug in a strip mall on Railway Lane in Halfway, near Valley Mall. Even there, it's overshadowed by the popular Crazy Horse Steakhouse & Saloon next door.

But quiet is OK. Under gentle strains of remade classical piano music, our dinner party had the full attention of our waitress and our hostess, even on a Friday night. Our two soft-spoken servers took turns tending to us, ably keeping our water glasses and ceramic tea cups full. DC1, a water service stickler, declared that three out of four refills were prompt.

DC1 was skeptical heading into our meal about both the value and the sushi.

She started with Salmon Skin Salad ($5.95). Normally, she said, she would not eat the skin when she has salmon, but she liked the crispiness.

She picked Beef Negimaki ($6.25) as an appetizer and received a generous portion. The scallion taste wasn't strong enough for DC1, but she wondered if it was her own fault by dredging it too much in the accompanying teriyaki sauce.

DC2, who has finer tastes in Japanese food than I do, was eager to get her fill of sushi. She went for the Chirashi Sushi ($15.95), a bountiful plate of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, white tuna, octopus, red clam, shrimp and "Krab with a K," as she calls the imitation stuff.

Fresh, very fresh, DC2 commented. But she expected more flavor from the chirashi rice.

I wanted a mishmash, a little of everything, and ordered a Chicken Teriyaki Dinner Box ($15.95), which comes with tempura, California roll, shumai (dumplings), soup, salad and rice.

The three of us sampled each others' meals and enjoyed everything, to varying degrees.

But we agreed that the salad that comes with the dinner box - a pedestrian iceberg lettuce mix - didn't belong at this meal.

DC2's Seaweed Salad in oil dressing was much finer.

To be thorough, DC1 and I checked out the bathrooms on the opposite end of the dining room, past the sushi bar.

The bathrooms should have been cleaner. Why the floors were sticky in both the men's and women's rooms, we couldn't understand.

When we returned to the light, cool dining room, we were ready for dessert.

Once again, there were several good choices.

We passed on both Fried Cheesecake and Tempura Banana with Cream, and headed for Mochi Ice Cream ($3). The menu description - "Japanese ice cream in the rice cake" - didn't stimulate this chocolate fiend, but I gave in.

Then, we dug in. Our three spoons competed for the petite but pleasing scoop of mango ice cream in the rice shell, with a dab of whipped cream.

We were more than satisfied.

We spent $58.35 plus tip.

Sakura for dinner was practically as good as Sakura for lunch, when the lunch buffet is $6.99 (on the weekends, $7.99; on holidays, $8.99).

This place probably won't remain a quiet place once more people find out about it. For now, though, there's simply more time, space, attention and good food for us at Sakura.


Overall: 3 forks overall

Food: 3 forks (out of 4)

Service: 4 forks (out of 4)

Atmosphere: 3 forks (out of 4)

Value: 3 forks (out of 4)

Hours: Lunch is served daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 4:30 to 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Prices: Our take-home menu shows 12 lunch specials from $6.95 to $11.95. A buffet is available for lunch or dinner. Among soups, salads, appetizers, entrees, a la carte items and desserts, there are more than 160 choices at Sakura. Build time into your meal for decision-making. The least expensive entrees are in the $12 range. A hungrier party can try the "Sushi/Sashimi Love Boat" for $44.95.

Restaurant reviews are contributed bi-weekly by Herald-Mail staff writers and editors alternating under the pseudonym E.T. Moore. For questions or tips, call Lifestyle Editor Jake Womer at 301-733-5131, ext. 2340, or send an e-mail to

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