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Sakura review

Lynda Moyo is in a Japanese dream but wakes up on disappointing Deansgate Locks

Written by . Published on January 6th 2011.

Sakura review

“This is a bit weird isn’t it? We’re eating really nice sushi whilst listening to JLo and surrounded by teenagers getting wasted,” said my boyfriend.

And that observation sums up the whole experience at Sakura - the new bar addition to Deansgate Locks, with extra spice added through a full menu of Japanese cuisine.

Sakura the Japanese restaurant and Sakura the nightclub just don’t work together and I for one don’t want my meal with a side order of hen party. It pushes the idea of casual dining too far.

Sakura is next to House Bar 9, a bar I disappointingly found had ‘nothing independent, new or quirky’ about it when it opened about a year ago. It’s also near the former Lakota bar (now Missoula) which came across as a ‘Walkabout bar in disguise’. The Locks list of letdowns goes on for me, but for the love of Japanese food I went to Sakura with an open mind on a Saturday evening.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that a lot more attention to detail had been given to the interior. The long bar space had been sectioned off into two halves with the help of bamboo inspired divides. One side is for the party people and contains the well equipped bar full of drinks offers and cocktail selections.

The other side is for diners with tables and seats which are typically Japanese - low to the floor. We found a corner table on the food side. Unsurprisingly, it was quiet for food orders, while groups on nights out had already spilled over to rest their feet in the dining side.

Sakura operates a table service and with a menu as long as the Shinano river, you’ll need all the help you can get from the lovely waiting staff. Problem is, as helpful as the staff are, as the bar gets busier further into the night, it becomes hard if not virtually impossible, to get their attention. We ordered a selection of dill salmon nigiri (rice blocks with toppings) at £1.95 for two pieces, prawn tempura hosi maki (hand rolled sushi with rice) at £1.95 for four pieces and a white mooli salad £2.50, a Japanese vegetarian salad dish at £2.50.

Hosi maki prawn tempura

Sakura proves that price is no indication of quality as the dishes were freshly made and offered at very low prices with the rice tasting delicately aromatic rather than flavourless on every dish. Sakura has worked hard to get all elements right with their food, the presentation is impeccable for instance. I wouldn’t bother with the mooli salad again though. The dish is largely grated nothingness with a side of mayonnaise. Sorry vegetarians.

I would however, rush back any time of day, for the sharing Bento Box, although I’d prefer not to share it. We ordered the Dragon Bento (£11.95) which comes with chicken yakitori, yasai gyoza and a selection of sushi. Pretty to look at and pretty delicious, these boxes are a great pick and mix Japanese meal and an uplifting alternative to my daily Tupperware surrounded sandwiches. If you work near the Deansgate area, I suggest you make a break for it at lunchtime.

We were nearly stumped on dessert due to our pre-conceived notion that traditionally Far Eastern restaurants don’t do good desserts. Sakura proved the exception to perhaps our erroneous rule.

Mooli salad and chicken karaage

Dragon bento box

I first discovered my love of deep fried desserts at Fuzion in Fallowfield with their gluttonous take on the deep fried Mars bar. Sakura has added a little more elegance to their version by deep frying a trio of ice cream scoops; chocolate, vanilla and green tea flavour with chocolate and toffee sauces (£4.95). The batter was sweet and light and luckily didn’t taste like it’d be better suited to a tempura vegetable.

The only unfortunate thing about our dessert was that by this point Sakura had gone from respectable, classy sushi bar to an inevitable poptastic Deansgate Locks bar.

The music had irritatingly gone up a few notches every half hour or so and the lights dimmed to the point that I could barely see my ice cream balls. Sakura the Japanese restaurant and Sakura the nightclub just don’t work together and I for one don’t want my meal with a side order of hen party. It pushes the idea of casual dining too far.

Maybe they should airlift the whole food concept out of Deansgate Locks to somewhere where people flock for great foreign food rather than a bingey British night out.

That’s not to knock the Locks, which serves its purpose as a bustling tourist destination each weekend for our regional in-comers. My qualm comes with throwing some sushi into the mix and hoping for the best. The food deserves more recognition than being treated like a bowl of peanuts on the side of the bar.

That said, with more awareness, Sakura could make a name with its sushi by day in its current location. It’s a great choice at lunch time and I’ll certainly be back for their food in quieter periods. Sakura the bar will continue to do what Deansgate Locks does best and thrive at weekends.

The Sakura website boasts Sakura Manchester as ‘an inspired fusion of cultures’, but as much as I enjoyed the food, I’m not convinced they’ve done their East meets West homework properly with this one.

Breakdown:7/10 food
3/5 service
3/5 decor
Arch 2 Deansgate Locks
Whitworth Street
M1 5LH
Tel: 0161 832 0234

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

JayNovember 18th 2010.

"It´s also near the former Lakota bar" it was still there when I walked past last night.

Lynda MoyoNovember 18th 2010.

Jay - Lakota (owned by Mitchells & Butlers) has very recently changed to Missoula (owned by Stonegate Pub Company). I'll add this to the article. Thanks.

AnonymousNovember 18th 2010.

Always a bad idea to put a restaurant in a canverous bar, I'll give it three months before it becomes just a bar, which is a shame as the food sounds good. Deansgate Locks is a nightmare, end of.

AnonymousNovember 18th 2010.

The Dragon Bento does not seem to be healthy, too much oily food, and the decoration of foods are not so attractive. These remind me a strange place "Tokyo Season".. I wonder if Ms Moyo might have got any information about chefs?

Banton BrownNovember 18th 2010.

Anonymous what are you on about?! Why on earth would Ms Moyo have any information about the chefs?! She likes the food, simple as that. Jay please tell me you were off your face last night if you think you saw Lakota.

JayNovember 18th 2010.

Linda, my apologies, you are correct. I went past the locks on my way home this evening and noticed that Lakota had changed, so came on here to say that I was wrong.
Banton, sod off!

CzechpleaseNovember 19th 2010.

Just one problem with the idea of having a nice sushi lunch at this place - the website says the sushi bar isn't open until 5pm

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