Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sakura on Manhattan Ave

When Rob asked if I wanted to try the new sushi joint where the old hardware store used to be, you can bet I was pretty skeptical. After all, why would I want to eat raw fish in the same spot where I used to buy measuring tape and curtain rod hangers? I finally agreed that we could go at a time where we weren't terribly hungry, so we don't wind up spending a ton of money on sushi that sucks. We have made this mistake at other restaurants and I don't plan on making it again.

So about two Fridays ago we walked the two blocks down to the corner of Manhattan Ave and Noble Street to give Sakura a test drive. My first impression was total surprise: how did they make the dusty old corner shop so warm and cozy? It was dark with relaxing spa-type music playing and a chalkboard proclaiming free hot sake with all meals. I was impressed already.

We decided to test them out on four different counts -- a garden salad (to be safe), an appetizer of beef negimaki, their homemade dumplings and a spicy rainbow roll, so we could test out their rolls and sashimi at the same time. Sakura succeeded through each mini course. I decided to forgo the free hot sake and ordered a cold one instead, which showed up in a can (!!) but was actually pretty good. Rob ordered a Japanese stout from their beer list that describes the color and flavors of all their brewskies -- a pretty cool touch and surprising for a place like this. Then the food started coming. The garden salad was standard, as expected. The beef negimaki was where we started to think that the place really had promise. I've always loved beef negimaki (thin steak and scallions, how can you go wrong!), but this really packed some punch. Rob pointed out the grill marks -- beef negimaki is not normally seared. It made a huge difference.

Then the Sakura dumplings came and we were hooked. The dumplings are filled with pork and scallions and a few other flavors I can't make out, wrapped in a deliciously fresh, obviously homemade noodle. Rob thinks they taste the same as dumplings at other places, only fresher; I'm pretty sure they add something else. Anyone want to join us to another trip to Sakura and settle this?

Finally, the spicy rainbow roll -- we've always liked rainbow rolls and bonus points for this one for having some kick to it. The sashimi on top was definitely fresh and prompted us to order the sashimi appetizer for our next visit (quick review: a bit overpriced and Samurai gives you more, but great creative plating and maybe the best raw salmon I've ever had).

And so after a few subsequent visits we are proud to add Sakura to the neighborhood rotation. Our waitress already recognizes us and remembers what we like -- she's really sweet and we look forward to seeing her. We'll miss Samurai (our last go-to maki spot that was for a short while a Sunday night tradition), but how can we justify a long walk to Williamsburg when Sakura is so close by? Just thinking of those dumplings now is making me fiend for some!

1 comment:

Jules said...

Sounds great. I'm down for some exploring with you soon. I want a picture of that rainbow roll though!