Review: Sakura

Lots of choices for lunch
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  September 6, 2011

On Wickenden Street with a friend, looking for a reasonably priced lunch, it occurred to me that a nice bowl of donburi would be cheap and filling. Sakura it was.

The place is clean and simple, with paper sheaths of break-apart chopsticks on paper napkins serving for place settings. There are four chairs at the counter, in case you want to watch rapid-fire slicing and rolling. We sat beneath a cloth wall hanging depicting a bulging sumo wrestler, thereby assuring that no amount of stuffing ourselves would seem like overeating.

They certainly give you plenty of midday meal choices. In addition to the fresh sushi that Sakura has a good reputation for serving, and the seaweed-wrapped rolls, there are two lunch menus. The sushi-specific one is served from 11 am to 4 pm, priced at $8.95 and $9.95. A typical item is the fish-free veggie "sushi," and another interesting choice is the okayo don, which has slices of salmon topped with salmon roe served on a bed of sushi rice.

The other lunch list is served from noon to 4 pm and is even less expensive. For $8.25 you can get soup and salad plus various choices over white rice, from salmon, tuna, or whitefish, to a gingered-up pork cutlet or beef barbecued or teriyaki-ed.

I'd heard that the service could be indifferent at best. That's not surprising: a place that is open from 11 am to 11 pm, seven days a week, should make sure that your server hands you cutlery pointy ends away from you. But while it was hard to catch the attention of our waitress, she made no threatening gestures — and on a brief return visit when things weren't busy, she managed a hint of a smile and offered me tea while I was waiting for a take-out order. Sweet.

Chef's specials are listed on chalkboards and printed table cards. Much of the fun of my meal was all the imaginary eating that could go on before we actually ordered. Those specials are mostly rolls, priced from $7.95 for chicken tempura, to $18.95 for a spicy lobster tempura maki roll. Some of the names are entertaining, such as the "Crazy Roll." Is spicy salmon with mango and avocado dangerously out-of-control? In the "I Love You" roll, the cucumber is probably there to cool down the ardor of the spicy lobster and tuna.

It's great that a number of tempura rolls are featured ($8.75-$5 75). I've always loved the warm and crunchy contrast to the cold and soft rice. There is a veggie version and an oyster one, and a Rhode Island tempura roll that unaccountably contains salmon, avocado, and cream cheese. I thought avocado was the California state vegetable.

As you can see, when it came to the actual ordering and eating, we were primed. We started with sharing a seaweed salad ($4), since I didn't want to impose tentacles on my friend and order the tako (octopus) salad ($7.25). Good decision. Thin green strands of wakame (I think it was) were mixed with some as translucent as cellophane. It was dressed with toasted sesame oil, which you could put on actual cellophane and please me, then sprinkled with sesame seeds. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

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