Until fairly recently, Japanese was a notable absentee from the range of cuisines available in Stockbridge. The arrival of Kenji on St Stephen Street addressed that in style. When Sakura tentatively opened its doors a couple of months back, I was interested to see how it would compare. On a bustling Friday we went to find out.
I was joined on this escapade by Book Group chums Julie, Rachel and Robyn who’d previously joined at Casa Angelina.
The place was previously Veritas and before that the Italian Kitchen. The set-up remains familiar but the detailing is all Japanese, as you would expect.
Having been shown to a table in the middle of the dining area, we were passed two tablets with menu details on them rather than printed menus. Although we would all consider ourselves highly adept digital people we found this incredibly off-putting as the interface was so clunky. Sadly it was a signal of some mediocre things to follow.
Throughout our time there, part of the sit-in dining space was turned over the the preparation and collection of takeaway orders. This was a necessary constraint of space I suppose, but it killed the ambience and gave a profound sense of haphazard disorganization. It also meant that our dishes came out in a strange order.
First up was the veg tempura (the last thing to arrive was the prawn tempura) and it was fine. The same goes for the gyoza. The aubergine was a decent version of a favourite dish.
The maki were OK and the sashimi was routine and a little underwhelming. The tofu was soft and quite interesting. The seasonal vegetable pancake was like morning after cabbage pizza. It was densely odd.
While the food was generally all alright, the whole thing felt poorly thought-out and a bit of a shambles. I raised the off-putting menu issue with one of the staff members but I didn’t really get a sense that it would lead to any change of approach.
So overall, I think Sakura will do fine initially as people try it as a new and interesting looking place, particularly given they are offering teppanyaki and showcasing wagyu beef on the menu. But I can’t see their rate of return customers being anything other than low, as the whole feel of the place is chaotic and deeply off-putting and the food is not good enough to redeem things. Prices are pretty reasonable so it likely represents a decent takeaway option, but that will just make things even worse for the unfortunate folks dining in when you order so I douby I’d even recommend that.
Today’s questers were: Julie, Rachel, Robyn, Blythe
We ate: aubergine, gyoza, tempura veg and prawns, cabbage pancake, pickle maki, spicy tuna maki, avocado maki, sashimi, tofu
We drank: white wine, rice beer, beer, sake
We wore: samurai robes
Total bill: £103.50
Address: 18-24 Deanhaugh Street, Edinburgh EH4 1LY