The staff at Sakura were disappointingly polite. When my friend Lucy took me there she warned that the staff at this cheap and cheerful Japanese restaurant near Oxford Circus were known for being rude. Sadly I can only report that the staff were brusque but efficient. I was really looking forward to some surly service but it was not to be. Apparently the rudeness occurs if you try to thwart the Sakura “system” which requires sitting down in a waiting area before being seated and not asking to be seated until all members of your party are at the restaurant. We complied with the system and so service while not overly friendly or attentive was not an issue. Damn!
The restaurant is reassuringly retro with fuzzy carpet tiles on the floor and laminate topped tables packed into the room. There is a sushi bar along one wall which is handy if you want to eat quickly or are a solo diner. The look is very no frills and Sakura couldn’t be further from slick designer Japanese restaurants like Nobu or Zuma. The focus is firmly on the food rather than the decor. The menu is pretty lengthy and extends to specials pinned up on hand written posters on the wall. There is a range of sushi and sashimi along with specialties such as shabu, shabu which we saw a few people ordering.
The sashimi selection (£11) was served without fanfare on a simple plate rather than a platter or presentation board. The sashimi was a perfect room temperature and tasted very fresh. The tuna in particular was as soft as butter. I also tried the nabeyaki udon (£9) which was a real feast. The large bowl of salty broth was packed with udon noodles, chunks of seafood and chicken, tempura vegetables and a poached egg. The tempura was a little on the soggy side as it had perhaps been sitting in the broth for too long but otherwise it was a pretty decent nabeyaki.
We drank green tea and tap water to accompany our meal which the waiting staff begrudgingly filled up when asked. At last … a little of the infamous bad service. That was really as bad as it got though and when it came time to pay I decided I would have been happy to put up with a lot more surliness given the bargain nature of our bill.
Essentials: 9 Hanover Street, Soho W1S 1YF (Ph 020 7629 2961) Tube: Oxford Circus
Damage: Such a bargain even my mother would approve
If you liked reading this you might be interested in Pham Sushi another low priced but good Japanese restaurant in London. Otherwise you could try this Japanese influenced recipe for salmon.