Sushi Sakura

Elizabeth Haas dines at the Prague 6 Japanese restaurant Staff

Written by Staff Published on 04.02.2008 10:07:12 (updated on 04.02.2008) Reading time: 4 minutes

Written by Elizabeth A. Haas

Sushi Sakura is the best kind of place: a neighbourhood sushi joint that´s low on pretension and high on interesting flavours. Housed in a former communist market—at least that´s what´s suggested from the candy-striped awnings outside—on a low-key corner of quiet Dejvice, Sakura hardly screams sushi in terms of atmosphere. Inside, the wood panelling is nicely offset by earthy terracotta walls, simple rice-paper screens, and boxy-lantern light fixtures that invite lingering. Dark wood tables, comfy black-leather seating, and just the occasional Asian accent (a few small silkscreens, lacquered stones in the bathroom sinks) are a welcoming touch; the Sinatra on the stereo and nice waitresses supplying toys to tiny patrons—the first in a long line of surprises that evening—immediately put us at ease. Rating

The Czech Republic, landlocked though it is, is no stranger to sushi, with many a place near Prague´s city center offering up platters of slick rolls and sashimi with rock gardens gurgling away in the background. Some of them get it right and some of them try too hard to be trendy, producing awkward pieces that require some seriously skillful gnawing—not for dainty eaters or the easily embarrassed. My complaint is that they don´t adhere to that “one-bite” sushi mantra, serving up hockey-puck sized pieces that are impossible to eat and often characterized by crumbling rice. And the prices: astronomical! You´ll find none of this at Sushi Sakura—nor a wallet-busting tab at the end of the meal. The Vietnamese chef Vu Van Manh trained in Japan and the proof is in the nigri. His sushi is expertly sliced and rolled, delicate and fresh, nicely presented. Sakura is a place where both sushi purists and beginners can revel in the tastes and textures of this most traditional cuisine. And the menu features a few dishes—spicy Thai soups and curries—for those oddballs, like my Czech companion, who find the idea of eating raw fish appalling.

We opened with the miso soup (80 CZK). Is there any other way? Tiny cubes of soft tofu and tender seaweed in a delicate, fishy broth. Nothing earth-shattering and maybe a touch too salty but it was warming and pleasant and heavy on tofu and seaweed which I like. We also shared the Tom Yam Gung soup (120 CZK) a zesty Thai soup spiked with lemongrass and cilantro. The shrimps were scant and it wasn´t served super spicy, but I tend to snap up Tom Yam Gung whenever I can get it. The spring rolls (80 CZK)—another surprising addition to a sushi menu—were overstuffed with imitation surimi (crab), tamago (egg), ebi (shrimp), noodles, and fresh lettuce and served with a rice-wine vinegar dipping sauce. The bold presence of familiar flavors lemongrass and cilantro brought the rolls to life. On the sushi front, the spicy tuna roll (180 CZK) with onion, tuna, and chili made me weak, each flavor somehow separating then melding together again with a spicy jolt. The unagi (grilled eel) was buttery and sweet (140 CZK). The vegetarian avocado roll and vegetarian nigri (avocado or shitake) were ho-hum but easily revved up with wasabi and a hit of soy sauce (both 60 CZK). The Sakura tempera special crunch rolls (inside-outside rolls that have been battered and deep-fried) were a lively addition to the meal and highly recommended. The Tiger Tempura (160 CZK) crunch roll I chose was a mouthful of battered goodness with a sweet finish. Inside-out rolls, temaki cones, and fish and seafood entrees like butter fish, cuttle fish, prawns, and scallops are also on offer. Sakura serves reasonably priced noodle dishes, too.

There are two vegetarian curries on the menu and the one that we sampled will keep us coming back again and again. The red curry—an ample portion of sweet potatoes, tofu, mushrooms, and eggplant in a coconut milk sauce served with rice—set the lips a-tingle (250 CZK). The combination of sweet potatoes and coconut milk positively sings. It was somehow both fiery and ambrosial and I can´t stop thinking about it. The Oroya Sushi Wine came by the glass (69 CZK); the mellow strawberry torte (55 CZK) and generous complementary fruit slices were a nice finish, and our English-speaking waitress kept our table tidy throughout the long meal.

If you´re on a mission to find the best sushi in town, your search won´t end here. But if you´re in the market for a friendly entry in the sushi game, the kind of place that does a great job with the basics, the kind of place you can become a regular, the kind of place without prices that shock, Sushi Sakura it is.

Sushi Sakura
Náměstí Svobody 1, Prague 6
+420 774 785 07
Open Monday-Sunday, 12:00-22:00.

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