i had japanese with italians and despite the fact that i speak no italian and aside from two out of a dinner party of four spoke no english we had a perfectly wonderful time. i and i were left to navigate an oversized sakura menu which if you have been to sakura you would know is not exactly an easy job to do. however we managed to get it all sorted and the result was an assortment of japanese dishes from sushi to sashimi, teriyaki, cold soba, some grilled squid and tempura.
i should at this point pause and say that the waiters are slightly linguistically challenged and you may find yourself repeating your order. also the service is patchy at best and some things with happen in quick succession whereas others (like the tea service) is ridiculously slow. my advice to you is to bear with it because the food more than compensates for it. in fact what goes in favor of sakura is the presence of a japanese clientele which to me is generally a fair indicator of the authenticity of the food.
so to return to the food; sakura uses good quality fish and both the sashimi and sushi were made up with fish that felt silken in the mouth. the beef ginger was thinly sliced and had heaps of flavor and in keeping with the rest the salmon teriyaki had a lovely rich glaze and flaked with ease at the touch of chopsticks. i and i tasted some cold soba which was refreshing. they say that making cold soba is an art and each strand must reveal itself independently. i am no expert but if the rules of pasta apply this soba definitely lived up to what little i had read. i wasn’t particularly fussed with the tempura which is always good. however it was a last order of grilled squid that was really hit the spot. it came with a wedge of lemon and something akin to wasabi in taste but which was yellow in color and added extra flavor to the already tasty squid.
at some point during dinner our attention was caught by the hot pot on the table next to ours and for a while the memory of china town’s hoco held my imagination. suddenly i was in islamabad on a winter evening in a grubby room. there were peanuts marinated in chili oil and pickled radishes and carrots for starters whilst waiting for the signature copper brazier to arrive along with a platter of raw meat, seafood and vegetable. the waiter would get the hoco started by adding thin slices of meat and leafy greens that would wilt dramatically in the hot soup. he would then use a chinese soup spoon to measure out steaming white rice into the base of soup bowls. to this he would add peanut sauce and chili (depending on preference) and then meat and vegetables would be added from the hoco with generous ladles of soup. he would then give it all a rapid stir and place it in front of you, ready to be eaten. and i returned to the present only when the discussion about dessert required my attention. i and i settled on some shared guilt in the form of azuki bean ice-cream which is this curious brownish-pink but tastes quite nice.
i just wish i had gotten more tea.