Sakura, Southsea

Vegetarian…. A word that normally induces fear into a foodie’s heart whenever you are planning to eat out. However, Sakura is the perfect restaurant whether you are an eater of vegetables or the flesh of other living creatures!

Sakura is a Japanese restaurant that has been living on the suitably lively Albert Road in Southsea (bring back Love Albert Road Day!) for a few years and it is practically a criminal offence that I have not tried it before. However Bank Holiday Saturday was  a perfect opportunity to go there as I had to take a vegetarian friend to dinner and Sakura was the first place to pop to mind.

Luckily they had tables available on such a busy night and we were welcomed in by a friendly waitress when we arrived at half past nine. It was fully occupied and had a vibrant atmosphere, tables and booths full of people enjoying their food and company. Unfortunately our table was not free yet so we spent a few minutes perched at the bar where we had time to peruse the menu and to order a couple of Asahi beers. The menu was incredibly varied and had extremely appetising pictures of the dishes for those less experienced in Japanese cuisine (i.e. me!).

When we were shown to our table we were still undecided with our choices but we eventually ordered between 2-3 dishes each. My fellow diner went for avocado maki, vegetable tempura and vegetable ramen (wheat noodles in broth). I opted for a sushi teishoku (set meal) which consisted of assorted nigiri sushi, avocado maki, calamari, and a vegetable miso soup to try as many flavours as possible. I also ordered deep fried soft shell crab as I LOVE seafood!

It looked extremely fresh and I felt obliged to try one after being offered one. This was a world away from supermarket sushi, which is unfortunately the experience of most people. The rice was warm with a slight gelatinous texture but the freshness of all the ingredients really spoke out. It was served with the ubiquitous pickled ginger and wasabi. Having only sampled supermarket sushi before, I applied a quite liberal amount of wasabi on sushi. DON’T! I’m no expert but it was probably the equivalent of shoving a jar of mustard up your nose…

One of the waiters offered to seat us in one of the booths before the rest of our meal arrived, which was just one example of how friendly and helpful the waiting staff are (or maybe he just took pity on me after obliterating my olfactory senses…). We accepted this offer but our previous table was not all crowded and did not feel as they were cramming as many covers in as possible.

Very soon after the rest of our meal arrived.

Vegetable tempura (can remember carrot, sweetcorn and potato at least) fried in light, grease-free batter and deep fried soft shell crab. Both were delicious but the crab was the highlight of the meal, perfectly crispy and delicious with a dab of soya sauce.

The vegetable ramen certainly hit all the right flavour and umami buttons, the broth having a depth of flavour that comes from more than a packet of stock powder! The teishoku also allowed me to sample a variety of dishes including salmon, king prawn and octopus nigiri as well a salad dressed with a sauce very similar to thousand island dressing if I wasn’t very much mistaken!

We were suitably full at the end of the meal with a respectably small amount of leftovers and were pleasantly surprised that meal came to little more than £36 which is firmly in the bargain territory considering the quality and quantity of the food with drinks.

I shall certainly be returning to try more of the seemingly endless menu and definitely expecting Sakura to put the likes of Wagamama to shame with the price, variety and more importantly the quality of the food served!

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