In Southampton’s quirky and popular Bedford Place, Sakura’s recently-opened second restaurant fits in well with the range of quality independent businesses on the street.
We are greeted by Cy who runs the restaurant with his family. After showing us to our table, he asked us if we had had Japanese food before, and after carefully racking my brain I reply: “Well, I’ve been to Wagamama and I’ve tried sushi and Sake”.
Cy explains that Japanese food is very versatile, due to the many subcultures in Japan, and he shows us Sakura’s extensive menu made up of noodles, sushi, tempura, dumplings and much more. On the specials board, this summer, is cold noodles, a very refreshing dish in the middle of a heatwave/summer. A lot of the dishes on the menu are small and perfect for sharing between two or more diners, but at the back are larger main portions.
We decided to let Cy lead the way, so we only had to worry about ordering our drinks. I went for a sparkling Sake and husband Josh had rice tea. The sparkling Sake might just be my new favourite drink. It’s like a light version of elderflower champagne, only 5% and very refreshing.
Cy brought us a bowl of Edame (Japanese green bean) while we waited for our food to arrive. The Edame is served warm and you have to open them up for the slightly salty beans inside, an enjoyable pre-meal snack.
Our first dishes were Rainbow sushi and Sakura’s own South Sea sushi. The Rainbow sushi gets its name from the colourful toppings of salmon, tuna, squid, avocado, sesame seeds, caviar and prawns, laid out in the shape of a rainbow. The South Sea sushi, however, has chicken in breadcrumbs in the middle, and both were beautifully displayed and very fresh – nothing like supermarket sushi!
Next, Cy brought us duck dumplings and grilled salmon in Sakura’s own teriyaki sauce: both dishes were outstanding, and the dumplings had a bit of a hoisin duck flavour to them, and the combination of the tender salmon, cooked until perfection glazed in an authentic Japanese homemade teriyaki sauce, was just perfect! Next, we had a Katsu fish curry; golden fried white fish in breadcrumbs, generously topped with a rich Katsu curry sauce, served with a side of rice, yet another taste explosion in yet such a simple dish.
The pudding menu is possibly the most exotic so, despite feeling quite full at this stage, we decided to try a pudding each. We went for a green tea and sesame ice cream and mochi ice cream. The green tea ice cream tasted like a cup of green tea with a dash of milk. I can safely say that it wasn’t my cup of tea, however the sesame ice cream was very nice. It had a nutty flavour, so despite its scary grey colour, I would buy a tub of it, and serve the very-hardto-please family.
Mochi ice cream is made from Japanese mochi (pounded sticky rice) with an ice cream filling, so tasted a little bit like a grown-ups jelly and ice cream. After the meal, Cy showed us his impressive collection of Saki and Japanese whiskey. Josh, the mixologist and all-around alcohol connoisseur, was intrigued, so we tried the 12-year-old Yamazaki Whiskey aged in Sherry and Japanese oak casks. It was subtle and elegant with plenty of fruit aromas – a perfect drink to top off an outstanding meal.
Sakura Southampton, 20 Bedford Place, Southampton, SO15 2DB Tel: 02380 339988 or 102380 226966 www.sakurasouthampton.co.uk
Sakura Portsmouth, 9 Albert Road, Southsea PO5 2SE 02392 751103 or 02392 756277