Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sakura Sushi Bar
(link is to the Yelp critique of the website page)
Centinela and Culver
On a recommendation from a good friend, Owen and I headed to Sakura Sushi Bar. It was very close to work, so I was definitely willing to try it to see if I could find a new sushi lunch spot. The busy, construction laden Centinela was not great to park at, and with Sakura not seeming to have parking of its' own - it was "strike one" against this place. Walking in, I took in the decor. The restaurant was pretty bare in decoration, except for a nice woodcut piece behind where the sushi chefs stood. The thing that hit me in the face was the smell of the place. The restaurant reeked like the smell of an aquarium. Not the big fancy ones that you pay admission to - but the ones where you buy fish for your home aquarium. Now, I can deal with that smell when I go to such a place, but for that smell to be the overwhelming smell of a restaurant that you want to eat sushi at...not so good. As Owen put it - "Smelling live fish while eating dead fish is not what I call appealing." I couldn't have said it any better. This was strike two. But how was the food? We started off each with a miso soup and salad. The miso soup was good - deeply flavored with rough hewn chunks of tofu, briny fresh seaweed and savory green onions. The salad Owen proclaimed it was "salad from a bag", the kind he had when he went to camp. I agreed...iceburg lettuce, one slice of cucumber, some slivers of red lettuce and green bell pepper. The salad dressing was the only thing that had character in it, a tangy japanese dressing, strong on the ginger and vinegar. I wish I had that with some mixed greens instead of the just-okay baggie salad.

Now to the bentos! Owen chose a teriyaki chicken and sushi bento. Owen is not a raw sushi eater (he sticks to rolls and cooked stuff) but he gave raw sushi another try. He popped the salmon sushi in his mouth, and started giving the most sour looks I've ever seen someone give after eating something. He managed to swallow it - holding back puking it out. It wasn't the foods' fault - but not a good way to start. He gave me the tuna piece after that.
I got the chicken teriyaki with sushi and sashimi. The nigiri were huge. HUGE. Like, a good two bites each. I think I prefer smaller cuts of sushi, with better quality. The fish was very mediocre - check out the "white striping" inbetween the salmon and tuna pieces. Each white bit was a difficult to chew membrane, which made it hard for me to bite it properly in half to eat the thing. The quality was just...okay. I could get better at Mitsuwa. The smell of the restaurant probably didn't help's hard to enjoy good food when your senses are being bombarded by nasty aquarium smells.
Rice. You know. The white stuff. It wasn't that awesome good quality sticky rice though - this was like, the mid range japanese sticky rice.
The sashimi. Check out that white nasty striping. Yep. Notice the pink of the tuna - like bubble gum. Not DEEP red, which is what good quality tuna should look like. Actually, now that I think about it, the taste was a little bit bubble gummy...well after you douse anything in wasabi it's almost edible.
The best part of the meal - teriyaki chicken. Pretty decent. Then again, it's hard to mess up teriyaki chicken, in my opinion. Good grill marks on the pieces, good mix of white and dark meat.

All in all, Sakura is alright. I don't know why it was so highly rated on so many sites like citysearch. The sushi is mediocre, maybe if I got other cuts of fish it would have been different, but salmon and tuna are the most basic of basic cuts, and if they were just okay, then I have little faith for the rest of the fish. And just because they gave me bigger cuts didn't make it was just...more. If I go again, I'm sticking to cooked stuff and tempura. And wearing a face mask!


Anonymous said...

"Heysandra" comments are not even close. Sakura is a great place to eat. Beats the hell out of Honda Plaza, and the foo-foo Wilshire-district joints (can you say ca-ching$$$).

I would not consider her review to have good depth - just sarcasm.

Anonymous said...

I actually agree with her review and I lived in and around Tokyo for five years. Also having done a lot of deep sea fishing, I know fresh fish.

Good friend of mine that lives near there was raving and finally got me that far south... I was completely underwhelmed and for most of the same reasons Sandra noted.

Smelled like end of the day fish market...

Bigger nigiri is NOT better nigiri...

Learn to not cut everying across the grain...

Miso freak's rating of their

If I lived near there, it might work for a close place, but I wouldn't travel more than two miles for it and certainly don't feel it's worth all the reported buddy has gone there for over two years, called ahead and still we waited for over 30 mins.

I much prefer Isshini in Westwood on Lyndbrook (little pricey but oh so authetically Japanese and sooo good) and Sushi Masu on Westwood at LeGrange.

My buddy did comment about the price at Sakura being more reasonable, but for me...price is not really a main concern when it comes to sushi... Bargain or all-you-can eat are words that should NEVER be used in conjuction with raw fish...