(Just behind Mez)
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You would be hard pressed to regard Sakura as a real Izakaya looking at it from the outside. It looks terribly clean and organised.
An Izakaya is by definition a Japanese drinking establishment, that serves food. ie. a pub. Typical patrons are those finishing work or traveling on their way home, so one can expect that the food is hearty, comforting, and not at all prissy, and there will be booze. It's also all about sharing with your mates. So think tapas.
Sakura manages the food and beverages right. Comfort level... well, I think the place is a bit too restauranty (I don't care if it's not a real word). Ultimately the food for me is the most important thing, and they get this very right. This blog entry is going to be more about the pictures than anything else.
Lets start with the booze though. The sake is served correctly - this is kindof important in a Japanese public establishment. There is also a fair representation of it on the menu. While I wish they had a few more varieties of shochu, what they have is varied and interesting. Try the Tantakatan Shiso leaf shochu for something different.
Food! Ondine & I visited the restaurant with Raven and Sarah in tow, and four bodies meant we could try a seriously large range of goodies. We hit the deep-fried Lotus Root (Renkon) hard, as well as a number of the appetisers and then made our way onto the more serious stuff.
The first real dish up was a fritter of fish and vegetables, grilled over bamboo leaf. Tasty enough, it was almost street food.
|Fish and Vegetable fritter|
We just kept ordering for about two hours until we were full, so the pictures here are in no specific order. Some dishes though were must haves, like the Mentai Mochi.
Mochi for the uninitiated is a rice flour cake. Cold it can be hard like wax, or sticky and rubbery depending on how it's made. In this dish it was fried with cabbage, and then grilled with cheese. Crunchy, chewy, cheesy and very very good. Will order again.
Drizzled with a ponzu sauce, the seared tuna was very good.
Okonomiyaki - my favourite. I first had this in London of all places, and have been hoping to find somewhere local that does it for over two years. Very happy this is on Sakura's menu.
Just about everyone's favourite on the night - Chicken Karaage. Super hot and crunchy. Challenging to eat with chopsticks. This could be the basis of a drinking game.
These were chicken balls on bamboo skewers. I'm not sure what they were called on the menu, but they were served with a sweet and sour sauce. Pretty, but nothing to write home about.
More balls. Octopus balls. Takoyaki is similar in consistency to Okonomiyaki, but with a different flavour.
|Anchovy Potato Wedges|
The real winner for the night. The improbably made Anchovy Wedges. It's just potato wedges, but they had been tossed in an anchovy mayonnaise before serving. The addition of the savoury fish was crazily good.
The old staple. Agedashi Tofu. Unlike many Japanese restaurants, Sakura appears to use a kudzu or potato starch to batter the tofu - which gives it an interesting elastic and crunchy coating. Warning though, it also makes these impossible to share!
|Kimchi Yaki Udon|
And our final dish for the night. Noodles, as is the tradition. Kimchi noodles. This was another dish that was well done.
So many great flavours. So many well cooked dishes. We skipped the sashimi, sushi and more mundane offerings and went for the hot stuff and was not disappointed. This isn't a fancy pants Japanese restaurant, it's just good food, a drink and a casual place to dine after work or a movie at the Paradiso.