I have heard great stories about Sakura Sushi, an authentic Japanese restaurant near Richmond Centre, for a while now, but I have always put off visiting it due to its rather unsightly appearance from the exterior. From the outside, it looked like an old Chinese meat shop who relied on its regulars to stay in business and could not afford any upgrades whatsoever. Take out the word "sushi" from all of the signs and "sushi restaurant" would be one of the last things to cross my mind with this image:
Walking inside, I found myself in a half-occupied small dining area (seating about a dozen people) with very simple, modest decor. The cooking staff and waiting staff all conversed to each other in Japanese and I had no clue what they were talking about (I don't really know Japanese), but they seemed to be having a good time. One of the servers greeted me in a friendly manner and I proceeded to look through the menu and at the signs around the restaurant to decide on what to order. Behind me was a sign that said "Eel is nutritious and a lot of vitamins." Well, I guess I'll have eel then.
Miso Soup - A-
I was started with a complimentary Miso Soup, which was well-balanced and leaning towards the milder side. It was garnished with green onions and tofu and I liked how it was not too salty.
Next, I had the Appetizer Sashimi, which came with 3 pieces of tuna and 2 pieces of salmon.
Tuna Sashimi - A
Salmon Sashimi - A-
The Tuna Sashimi was very fresh and sufficiently soft. Taste-wise, it was excellent without being fishy or excessively salty. Now, what's up with the ridiculously small pieces of salmon sashimi? It's hard to come up with compliments while experiencing a negative surprise, but at least it was fresh wild sockeye salmon. It packed quite a bit of flavour and had a nice, smooth texture. (I tried.)
What the Hell Roll - A-
I don't know how this roll got its name, but here's my theory: The staff came up with an excellent idea for a new special roll but needed to decide on a name. They couldn't come up with any good names and someone in frustration yelled "What the hell!" Then, someone responded with "Oh, that's a great name!" I don't know ... or maybe they just liked hearing customers say "what the hell."
The What the Hell Roll consisted of unagi on top, salmon and avocado. The unagi was tastefully grilled and was coated with a rich, savoury teriyaki sauce. The salmon had a soft, smooth texture and had enough flavour to be noticed underneath the stronger unagi. The avocado used in the roll was very fresh. I don't really have any complaints other than wishing that the roll was served a little warmer.
At this point, my phone battery died (even though it was at 62%). What the hell! Fortunately, the server gave me permission to switch tables and helped me move my food so that I could charge my phone in a nearby outlet while eating.
Yakitori - B-
The Yakitori consisted of two skewers with leeks and tender chicken. I'm not sure if there were more leeks or chicken. It needed more of a grilled taste and I found the consistency of the sauce to be too thick. (This is observable from the photo above.)
Unagi Cheese Nigiri - A+
Aburi Toro Nigiri - A-
The Unagi Cheese Nigiri was a good example of clever culinary innovation. The small amount of cheese used on top of the unagi worked very well to accentuate the flavours of the unagi, creating an excellent warm, grilled and appetizing burst of flavour. The Aburi Toro Nigiri was successfully seared with soft, melty toro on top of a bed of soft sushi rice. There was just a little too much rice under the toro, preventing the nigiri from achieving the optimal fish-to-rice ratio.
I wasn't really full after my initial order, so I decided to get one more item - the Dynamite Roll.
Dynamite Roll - B
The tempura prawn in the Dynamite Roll was fried with a high-quality oil, so it was not excessively greasy. The prawn was served warm, while the surrounding rice was cooler. The rice was just a tad mushy (it was rolled with too much force) and the vinegar was a bit strong, making it stand out.