It seems like recently there’s been an influx of sushi restaurants and general interest in sushi in Wichita. I’m sure the influx of restaurants is directly correlated with interest. Or… Vice versa? Doesn’t matter, I suppose. I just want to disclaim this review by saying I’m not a sushi connoisseur. However, I can tell you what I like. I’ve eaten at a couple of different Wichita spots: Hana Cafe, Tsubasa, Bonefish Grill, and even Dillons. No, I haven’t made it to the elusive (and westside) Kanai. But there are plans in the works. Hey, I’m an eastsider, and I hear Kanai’s REALLY busy. So it sounds kind of exhausting to drive across town to stand in line to eat. Especially when there’s such a good spot near my house. Hey, good transition, Kelly. I know, right? Thanks!
Reaching out. Touching me, touching you. Sweet spring roll. Bah! Bah! Bah! Good times never seemed so tasty. So tasty! So tasty! So tasty!
I’d seen Sakura a few times at the corner of Harry and Rock doing random things. Yes, some of them did include picking up cheese sticks at Papa John’s. I’m not particularly proud of it considering service in there isn’t amazing, but a girl has a craving for cheese sticks, she’s gotta quench it. And trust me, the cheese expert, cheese sticks at Pizza Hut aren’t what they used to be. They’re dry, they’re over-cooked, and if you ask them to “cook them right” they get grumpy and probably spit in them. But I digress. How do I always get sidetracked by cheese?
Anyway, I’d seen Sakura a few times, but as always with new places, was a little intimidated. I don’t know a lot about sushi, and my experience is limited to what I’ve had on vacations to places like Florida, Boston, Vegas, etc. And when I’m here, I tend to stick to spicy tuna rolls. Boring, right? So when new sushi places started cropping up and Hana Cafe moved, I started reading comments on THOSE restaurants and that’s when I heard about Sakura. I’m not an idiot so I looked at reviews. All were smashing. OK, you’ve got me, now I don’t just want to go. I NEED to go!
The first time I checked the place out, I forgot to take pictures. I’m not sure why? I was alone. But I remember I was in the middle of a book, and I suspect said book distracted me from my job. And I felt like a review without pictures wasn’t a review at all. Plus, what’s a better excuse to go back?
The first time around I got Agedashi Tofu for an appetizer. Which is battered and fried tofu in a garlic sauce with smelt roe on top. What’s smelt roe, you ask? OK, everyone may or may not want the answer. If you want the answer, click here. If you want to see what it looks like, click here. I know the thought of some sushi-related stuff grosses people out. For me, sushi’s been kind of a growing experience. My very first sushi was a California roll. California rolls were invented for Americans. First, because of our aversion to raw fish, California rolls contain no fish. Only imitation crab. Which is kind of gross in itself. At the time I didn’t think so. But now I’d totally rather have raw tuna! And second, they’re commonly made “inside out.” Which means rather than the nori (read seaweed) being on the outside, the rice is. That way it masks the flavor of the seaweed. Honestly, the seaweed was the biggest turnoff with my first sushi roll. But the girl I was with promised it’s not normally so strong and encouraged me to try it again.
Fast forward to Vegas, and I tried a spicy tuna roll with someone who said he’d eat all of it if I didn’t like it, but I had to try one piece if he got it. Um. Ah-mazing. This was when I learned you’re supposed to eat the entire roll in one bite. I’m not sure why. But, this is also when I learned I love smaller rolls over bigger ones. Sure the bigger ones look better, but damn, they’re hard to fit in your mouth an enjoy. Come on, people! I set you up for a “That’s what she said!” Someone BETTER be saying it right now!
But, seriously, though. The rest of my sushi history is blurry. Not necessarily because of saki. But in the meantime I’ve tried lots of different rolls in Wichita. Notably with a lot of help from Dillons at Central and Rock. They have bomb-ass sushi chefs who will make whatever you want on the spot. Plus, BONUS, they will even use brown rice! Most of the time I just get spicy tuna rolls because when I crave sushi, that’s what I’ll get. But sometimes I’ll have them add avocado in. And I have even gotten Hawaiian rolls, and Philadelphia rolls (both with tuna). I’ve also eaten salmon and shrimp. I’m NOT a shrimp lover, but I don’t mind it in sushi. I also don’t mind salmon. But I LOVE tuna. (Insert 7th grade boy joke here.) I don’t know what it is. It’s like how some people prefer steak over any other meat. Unless my friend Katie’s cooking the steak, I’ve never really had a blessed event with steak. In fact, I like to put my mom’s marinade on chicken, and actually prefer it. So, for me, tuna is my steak. I’d prefer grilled (rare) ahi tuna as a dish over any steak. Or chicken. Or anything else meat-related. But, DO NOT bring tuna in a can (or bag, come on people, it’s all the same) around me. I only like fresh, sushi-grade tuna. Hey, call me a snob.
OK, so where were we? Ah, yes. The first trip to Sakura. And I think I was eating the Agedashi Tofu. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it but the waitress suggested it, so I got it. First, I was surprised it came in two big pieces, rather than small squares. I think I expected it that way because I’ve had fried tofu at Zen and it came in bite-sized squares. Nonetheless, it was easy to cut through, and was definitely enough for probably three or four people. Yes, I was alone. Don’t judge.
Lots of people don’t like tofu because it’s bland. But I think it takes on the flavor of anything around it. I actually liked it fried. And the garlic sauce was good. The sauce itself had a familiar flavor. I’m not sure it definitely does remind me of miso soup, but I think it did. Anyway, if you aren’t grossed out by the idea or texture of tofu, get it. If you are, there are plenty of other options.
In fact, the second time I went, I got the Homemade Harumaki, which is a deep fried spring roll with pork, taro, black fungus and clear noodles. For those of you intimidated, grossed out or otherwise turned off, don’t be. These little buggers were effing delicious! They were homemade, freshly fried, and wonderful. You could definitely taste the pork, and the proportions of ingredients seemed to be perfectly balanced. I could have eaten about fifty of these. Thank god there were only four.
Before your sushi comes (both times I ordered off of the maki, or roll menu), you get miso soup and a cucumber salad. I LOVE the soup. But I like salty things. Again, there’s tofu in the soup. But I don’t have a disliking for tofu. And the broth itself is really good. The cucumber salad I’m not a big fan of. It’s sweet and tangy. I’m sure some people like it, but it’s not my style.
Finally, the first time I got, you guessed it, spicy tuna roll! It came out and it was really good but the filling looked like it was salmon (more orange) than tuna, and it didn’t taste spicy. At first I figured they just used the wrong fish. But when I got my bill it was marked down as a grilled salmon roll. Which may have been how she marked it for pricing, or it may have been what I got. I don’t think the salmon was grilled. It definitely wasn’t warm. So I’m not sure what happened. It was still good, just not spicy.
While I was waiting for my food the first time there was a family of four talking about which rolls they were going to get. The grandma said she always had to get the Kansas roll because it’s so good. So I made a little note to self to try that next time. And I actually liked it. Not as much as tuna or salmon. I actually prefer the softer texture of the raw fish to the cooked beef. But it wasn’t bad. If you’re not a fan of raw fish, get it without the smelt roe, and you can have a fun sushi experience with your friends.
The dad at that same table of four said he’d eat any kind of tuna as long as they put the spicy tuna sauce (which is just spicy mayo) in it. Again, note to self. Excellent point. I agree.
So this time I got the Kansas Roll. Which is grilled beef, crab meat, avocado, lettuce, smelt roe and mayo. I substituted spicy mayo for mayo. And I was surprised this roll came with smelt roe. I’m not sure why? I guess the idea of fish eggs (sorry, people, had to say it) grosses me out more than raw tuna. But maybe it’s just me. Anyway, I assumed this roll was for those who don’t want raw fish. But later decided it was named for Kansas only because we apparently have a lot of beef here?
Other rolls on the menu are a Boston roll (smoked salmon, avocado and lettuce), unagi maki (fresh water eel (Rachel on Friends was right!), avocado, scallion, smelt roe and mayo), futo maki (pickled radish, egg, mushroom and crab meat – I’d never order this, I don’t think!), and a plain vegetable maki (carrot, mushroom, avocado, pickled raddish – throw on a little spicy mayo and it might not be bad!).The rolls range in price from $4-$10. And like I said, they come with miso soup and cucumber salad.
Alright, so other things on the menu include temaki (which are “hand rolls”). They’re cones. There are three kinds of sushi. For beginners it’s nice to know this so you don’t feel stupid, or order the wrong thing. Maki are the traditional rolls. They’re what you see on TV and what many people are talking about when they say they’re eating sushi. Then there’s sashimi or nigiri, which are pieces of fish. And I would say are not necessarily for beginner sushi eaters. If someone had given me this type of sushi for my first attempt, I NEVER would have tried it. And finally, there’s temaki, which are the cones. I haven’t seen these as many places, but I’m sure most people have. Again, not an expert here, so I’m writing for fellow beginners or novices out there! Here’s an article on sushi, and you can see what the different types look like.
I’ve read a few reviews saying to get the spicy tuna temaki, which is what I’ll get next time. I’m already craving sushi again so if anyone’s interested in going anytime soon, I’m in!
Oh! And there are also always specials posted at the door. The couple behind me the second time got one of the “sets” that were on special, which are several different kinds of sushi, and then shared an appetizer. The specials and some of the combos definitely seem to cater to all different “types” of sushi eaters. Beginners, novices, amateurs, experts, you name it.
Oh, and I’ve heard if you’re brave you can tell the sushi chef to surprise you and he will. Someday. I’m not quite there yet!
The service at Sakura is top-notch. I’ve had the same waitress both times, and she’s amazing. I always try to tip her really well but it never seems to be enough to show my appreciation to her professionalism, attentiveness, and truly caring to make your dining experience relaxing and perfect.
One final thought, they have beer, wine and a few different types of saki. I haven’t eaten any of their noodle dishes, but compared to Hana Cafe, which I also like, I actually think I prefer Sakura. Hana Cafe does have this bibimbap dish that I have dreams about. I didn’t see anything similar on Sakura’s menu, but their menu is extensive, so maybe I missed it. I have also heard people say Sakura’s fried rice is delicious. So if you don’t like raw fish, there are dishes at both Sakura and Hana Cafe you can get. And I’m sure ANY sushi restaurant you go to!
Alright, sorry this has been so lengthy! I wanted to give a good review for anyone who’s never been, or anyone who’s not too sure about sushi.
Bottom line: GO! Service is AWESOME! Food is always well made, fresh, and delicious. And the restaurant itself is clean and well-run.
Soup, cucumber salad. This is how she set them on the table. Everything in this place is thought-out and presentation is important.
Spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce
Inside of the spring rolls. See, nothing to be afraid of! :-)
I’m pretty sure this badass stuff was made from scratch. It was so good. Karla probably would have drank it!
Closer shot of the Kansas rolls
Now, who wants sushi?