Japanese restaurant Sakura has been around for years. Walking into the place is a little like going back in time, as little of the place has changed, decor-wise. The rice-paper walls and bright red lanterns are still there. The place itself is fairly informal- you can choose to sit on the tatami mats, Japanese style, or sit at a table. Although all the staff at Sakura are local, they will all stop what they are doing to cheerfully shout a greeting in Japanese the minute you enter.
The idea of consuming raw seafood might make some people queasy. However, most people forget that Japanese food isn’t all about the raw fish. There’s lots of cooked items for the less adventurous as well.
What makes Sakura such a good option is simply value for money. A little smart ordering will mean you could spend between Rs. 1000-2000, maybe even less with a larger group. Compare that with the much pricier Ginza Hohsen or Nihonbashi, and you’ll understand why the place has remained such a firm favourite for some.
Foodwise, there’s quite a lot to choose from. There is a large selection of maki, (which means the seafood is wrapped in seaweed and rice) from crab, to prawn or tuna. For those who want a full meal, there are a variety of udon (Japanese noodles) and rice dishes to choose from as well. Sakura does a decent sashimi platter too. A firm favourite with my friends is the prawn tempura (though sometimes the tempura batter gets a bit soggy in places).
My main caveat with Sakura is sashimi-based. I am a huge fan of salmon sashimi, and Sakura, for some reason, doesn’t include salmon on its menu. Another quirk is the fact that they add a little wasabi into some of the maki rolls, and don’t serve it as an accompaniment. However, the smiling waitresses always bring as much as you want, if you just ask for it.
Restaurants like Nihonbashi emphasise on quality- and undoubtedly, their food is delicious, and their seafood fresh. If you visit the main restaurant, you can even order using (and gawk at) their iPad menu.
However, if you’re looking for something more affordable, Sakura’s your best bet. What’s more, their food is quite tasty as well.
Sakura tends to close relatively early after lunch, around 3 pm, opening again for dinner around 3 hours later. It is located at No 14, Rheinland Place, Colombo 3.