REVIEW: Sweet mix up at new fresh Japanese restaurant

Chef Kenny Zhen, at Sakura House, Ecclesall Road with a Spare Chicken Yaki Dum. Picture: Andrew Roe
Chef Kenny Zhen, at Sakura House, Ecclesall Road with a Spare Chicken Yaki Dum. Picture: Andrew Roe
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It sounded like an exotic blend between sweet and savoury - a dish that any food writer worth their salt would have to try.

And there were no grilled chicken heart skewers available at Sheffield’s newest Japanese restaurant Sakura House, so the Sakura Ice Cream Tempura was our best chance of adventure.

It is described on the menu as fried king prawn with ice cream.

“This is only jam short of an Arctic roll”, said my fellow diner when the dish arrived, all deep fried golden cake and freezing ice cream topped with a jaunty cocktail umbrella.

We spent several minutes puzzled - tasting, searching, probing with forks and sniffing for even the slightest sign of seafood - before turning to beaming owner Clark Wang and asking just where the pesky pink things were hiding .

“Oh, there’s no prawns - that’s just the name!”, he smiled, before the table burst into fits of helpless laughter.

Sakura House, Ecclesall Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

Sakura House, Ecclesall Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

So we had ordered dessert - a tasty one, but still - for the main course. Now you don’t have to make the same mistake.

They say it never rains but it pours, and Sakura is the second Japanese restaurant to open on Ecclesall Road in just a few weeks after Koko.

The former milkshake shop is now a dinky restaurant that looks as authentic as can be - with pretty Japanese murals inside and out, fine wooden tables and sweet swinging lanterns.

Clark - formerly owner of the Three Corners of China on West Street, still of the Yep Yep Hot Pot on Brook Hill - hails from Dalian in China, which is just an hour or two’s journey from Japan.

Sakura House, Ecclesall Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

Sakura House, Ecclesall Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

He and fellow owners made the switch to Japanese food to bring something fresh to the table.

He said: “The French and American people are eating a lot of Japanese food, whereas before they ate Chinese, and I think that is happening in England too.

“There are also a lot of Asian people coming to Sheffield and food is their first business - people want to try something new.

“That’s why I decided to open in Ecclesall Road.

Big Philadelphia Maki at Sakura House, Ecclesall Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

Big Philadelphia Maki at Sakura House, Ecclesall Road. Picture: Andrew Roe

“Chinese food focuses on the sauce and the oils, all the additional things, but Japanese food like French food focuses on the quality of the materials that are at the heart of it.

“We want everything to be as fresh as possible - fresh and tasty, that is the restaurant.”

Many of the ingredients used in the kitchen - which is an open one - are imported from Japan to ensure authenticity.

Fish is brought in fresh from markets daily.

Sakura has been open only three weeks, with a 10 per cent discount still in place when we visited.

A special grill from Japan had not yet arrived - hence the lack of chicken heart skewers - and a credit card machine was due the next day.

But Clark said they already had regulars and there were plans to clarify the menu a little...

“The new menu is going to describe things more clearly”, he said.

“Sometimes when you translate it from Japanese to English it confuses us as well!”

The service at Sakura was very friendly and fast, with hearty welcomes and lots of smiles.

But our order got a little lost in translation due to the language barrier.

No matter, as the salmon roe nigiri that turned up instead of crab (the options being next to each other on the menu) were little parcels of vivid orange eggs wrapped in crunchy seeweed.

The Fire Disaster Maki looked absolutely showstopping, with delicate slivers of tuna and the tiniest carved chillis you can imagine atop salmon and rice rolls.

There was a pleasing heat from the fiery pepper sauce drizzled on it too.

The salmon nigiri was a highlight for being so incredibly fresh, buttery and flawless. Spicy tuna rolls had none of the processed taste that you can find at chain sushi restaurants, just the heat.

For sushi this place is on fire - every item was authentic, simple and high quality as well as filling.

Ice cream error aside, we shared a donburi, or rice bowl.

There was enough rice to feed four, plus a fine miso soup. The breadcrumbed pork topping was tasty but accompanying egg too runny, and we had to add plenty of soy sayce to boost the rather plain flavours.

We drank deliciously weird melon milkshakes and finished with a free, traditional but unexceptional, cake sandwich.

The bill was £47.43 with the discount.

n Sakura House, 297 Ecclesall Road. Call 07796396888.