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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sakura - Regional Chinese, and Sushi too

Sakura is a restaurant with multiple personalities. One might think from their name that they're a Japanese restaurant, but although they serve sushi, their main focus is on Chinese food. To add another layer of complexity, they serve Chinese food that draws from many parts of China. There are dishes that are typical of Shanghai, some from Sichuan, northern dishes, and the broad selection of Mandarin style typically seen in Beijing.

We chose to concentrate on the Chinese side of the menu, we're still a little unsure about the combination of Chinese food and sushi, we tend to want one or the other, not both at the same time. There's plenty to choose from on either side of the menu, so that was no hardship.

Even though we were concentrating on Chinese, they wanted us to try the special "Wasabi Roll" and kindly sent one out for us to try. It was filled with tempura shrimp and dressed with four sauces. My tablemates all said this was not the kind of sushi they normally order, but admitted that it was tasty!

We started the main meal with Shong Shao Fish Soup, which had a nice thick texture, tender fish, and a bright, complex herbal flavor.

The Scallion Pancake showed no evidence of scallions, but we didn't care, it was a wonderful version, very light and flaky, with many layers, the top adorned with sesame seeds.

House Shrimp were well-liked at the table.

Diced Chicken with Hot Pepper had some serious spiciness.

As did the Baby Shrimp Sautéed with House Spicy Sauce

The Braised Pork Shoulder is a favorite from Shanghai, with a deep, sweet glaze over the luxuriously fatty meat.

Lion's Head is another popular dish from Shanghai, and these baseball-sized meatballs were a flavorful version, despite being just a touch dry. The delicious sauce and braised bok choy compensated nicely.

Sautéed Water Spinach was bright and tender, the hollow stems of the vegetable soaking up the garlicky sauce.

Shanghai Pan-Fried Udon had a great texture from the large, firm noodles.
Steamed Fish with Ginger and Soy was very nicely done, featuring delicate fish, just barely cooked, flavored with a thin but flavorful sauce.
Chicken in Rice Wine Sauce was a favorite around the table. The cold chicken had picked up a pleasingly boozy, sweet flavor from the marinade, and its time in the wine had tenderized it perfectly.
Shanghai Marinated Duck was another cold dish with vivid flavors from a complex dark marinade.

We'd asked if they had any pickles, and these preverved vegetables had a bright sour kick that went well with many of these dushes,

For dessert, they sent a delicious sweet soup with tender tapioca and a touch of wine.

And finally, Banana Tempura. Warm, crunchy, sweet... what could be wrong with that?

Overall we thought the food was very good, and we're thrilled to see more regional Chinese on menus here. It's a big country, with many different traditions. Shanghai-style is represented well here, in fact we recognize some staff from Dim Sum Garden which also serves excellent dishes from Shanghai.

We're still not sure they need to serve sushi here, the menu is already very diverse, but I'm sure they'll find out whether there's a demand for it in this context. We'll be back to explore more of the menu, we barely scratched the surface, and who knows, maybe we'll even feel like some maki too...

1038 Race Street (on the corner of 11th Street)

(website under construction)


  1. Anonymous10:29 PM

    looks good

  2. Good stuff, Jeff; thanks for doing the legwork for the rest of us! I gave it a try on Friday night and was nicely impressed.

  3. Anonymous12:14 PM

    I have eaten here twice now. Very friendly staff, great food when you order right.

    First time we got both the spicy chicken and shrimp above and although we love heat, it was too much.

    The braised shank & scallion pancakes are amazing. Pork fell off the bones with a rich aromatic sauce. Light flaky pancakes. Skip the spring rolls.

    Now they are carrying Shanghai (Juicy) buns...awesome. Can't not order them.