Sakura – Lardbutty ‘Japanese restaurant of the year 2010’

UPDATE, JANUARY 2011: Sakura has moved to swankier premises on Conduit Street. The restaurant, menu and prices have all been hiked
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New website will be at http://www.sakuramayfair.com
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I love this restaurant, and it amuses me to read the mixed reviews it gets on the web.

Sakura doesn’t (yet) have its own website but it is always busy and seems to have a lot of repeat customers, many Japanese.

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Sakura restaurant

On arrival, you won’t be shown to a table until all of your party’s arrived. Food specials are dotted around the walls, hand-written in Japanese with rough English translations. You quickly get the feeling of being in a real Japanese enviroment where there’s a need to look out for Japanese customs and etiquette (unlike the conveyor-belt style sushi chains now found in every town).

On being seated, it may be apparent that some of the waiting staff’s English is limited. The extensive menu is in both Japanese and English, so you can get by with pointing to items while the waitress copies the kana into her order pad. This all adds to the adventure, atmosphere and experience of eating here.

Because translations are literal, the menu doesn’t necessarily make for an appealing, mouth-watering read, for example, ‘five fish in vinegar’ or Sunomono, is a very tasty Japanese speciality, of foods prepared in vinegar.

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Sunomono

I’ve eaten here a few times now. Each time, I’ve taken a chance and just selected random dishes (mostly from the ‘Cheff’s Spechal’ page) such as sushi, spicy rolls, mixed tempura, grilled river eel, squid tentacles, fried and grilled half aubergine with sauce (caramelised) and sunomono. And there are many noodle, dumpling and soup-based dishes and a variety of main courses too, if you prefer not to share smaller plates and tasters.

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Fried + grilled aubergine with sauce

Intrigued yet? Do a web search on this restaurant and look at the reviews – there are two kinds: those who seem to have a temper tantrum at being asked to wait until all the party’s arrived before being shown to a table and interpret the staff’s limited English as rudeness, and those who are prepared to go with the flow, take a gamble with the menu and appreciate delicious Japanese food. Which will you be?

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Japanese
~ Postcode: W1S 1YF
~ Nearest tube stations: Oxford Circus, Bond Street
~ Website: n/a
~ Location: Sakura map

Sakura on Urbanspoon

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