With all the recent problems restaurants have had with cleanliness, I was struck that the first thing I noticed when walking into Sakura on West Jefferson Boulevard was the smell of bleach. The tables and floor were very clean; this gave me an extra measure of confidence.
Wanting something lighter for lunch, I opted for sushi and chose the Hoosier sushi roll -- salmon, cucumber and tempura crunch topped with pepper tuna.
My friend chose the shrimp tempura Bento Box.
Our lunches came with clear or miso soup and green salad with ginger dressing.
Our salads were served first. Both of us remarked about how cold and crisp the salad was with just the right amount of ginger dressing. I'm a bit of a nut for ginger dressing and could drink it by the glassful. You won't be disappointed with Sakura's dressing -- it was delicious.
In contrast, the clear soup was very hot and mild tasting. I would have liked a few more green onion tops and some more crispy panko crumbs on top.
I chose the Tako-Su appetizer for a taste of something unusual. It consisted of octopus slices served with a vinegar sauce. The sauce was in the well of the plate and was topped by shredded radish and garnished with parsley.
My first slice of octopus was rubbery and hard to chew. A thinner slice was much easier to eat. The octopus did not taste or smell fishy. The vinegar sauce was tangy and fiery hot. After I tasted it, I felt like flames were going to come out my nose. I was grateful that our server kept us well-supplied with water.
My dining companion wasn't keen on trying octopus but took one for the team and tried it. I ended up eating most of the appetizer, including the shredded radish. Despite the heat, I really liked the vinegar sauce. This dish won't be for everyone, but I'd try it again if the slices were very thin. And since it's served cold, I recommend trying it on a hot day.
My Hoosier sushi roll was excellent. Spicy salmon, cucumber and tuna were a winning combination both in taste and appearance. The cucumber and rice cooled down the spicy salmon and peppery tuna. The sushi was served on one of the longest oval platters I've seen. Each ingredient was visible and colorful. A sweet sauce was drizzled on top and on the plate, so there was no need for soy sauce.
My friend said the shrimp tempura in his Bento Box tasted fresh and was properly cooked. He said accompanying tempura sauce set off the dish.
The Bento Box contains a generous amount of food. He ate all his shrimp tempura and rice and some of the tempura vegetables but was too full to finish the accompanying four pieces of California sushi roll and vegetable tempura. As a member of the “clean plate club,” I mooched the rest of his meal.
After polishing off the rest of the vegetables I agreed that they were cooked perfectly -- not greasy.
Sakura's quiet atmosphere made for an enjoyable, relaxing lunch. There was no loud background music, and we could have a conversation.
As I left the Sakura, I found myself hoping I feel that same “clean” reassurance in every restaurant I enter. First impressions are everything.