Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
There’s a lot on the menu at Sakura that we won’t be able to tell you about. It’s simply too huge, even with the multiple trips our staff has made there recently. This Japanese restaurant in Sherwood covers all the bases: sushi and sashimi, tempura, hibachi, bento boxes, plus a lengthy list of “specialties.”
Sakura, the Japanese word for ornamental cherry trees or their blossoms, sits in a nondescript strip mall on Kiehl Avenue in Sherwood, a couple of blocks south of the Kiehl Avenue exit from U.S. 67-167.
Of what our group of four did try on one dinner, though, we enjoyed across the board, with the exception of dessert and a glitch in the timing of our courses at the beginning of the meal.
We started with edamame ($2.95) and an order of gyozu (pork dumplings, $2.95). The edamame were, well, edamame — in other words, fine. The gyozu were quite tasty, with plenty of flavor.
Unfortunately, right after the appetizers came out, so did both the miso soup and salad that came with our entrees. It made for a very crowded table and an overly rushed meal, at least on the front end.
But the soup was fine, and we managed to finish everything before our entrees arrived.
Our group chose from across the menu: a sushi/sashimi combination platter, a chicken teriyaki bento box, hibachi filet mignon and hibachi chicken.
None of us is a regular consumer of sushi, so take our judgment with that in mind, but the member of our group who mostly likes it thought his platter was good. It included about eight pieces of sushi over rice, including octopus, plus a couple of California rolls, which we also sampled later and thought were delicious. (We would later return for lunch and have the three rolls-for-$8.95 special, and all were very good and fresh, especially the spicy tuna roll and a crunchy shrimp.)
The filet mignon hibachi was perfect — the meat was tender and cooked exactly to the medium ordered, with plenty of tasty vegetables and rice to round it out.
As for the bento box, we’d advise you not to order it unless you’ve got a considerable appetite. The chicken teriyaki was good, as were the other elements — California rolls, vegetables, seaweed, something we think was some kind of squash, and rice — but it was so much food that even with the other three of us nibbling, our companion couldn’t finish it off.
The hibachi chicken got good reviews as well.
Stuffed as we were after the entrees, we decided to sample dessert. If you do the same, we’d just point you away from the tempura choices. We had all three at our table — vanilla ice cream, banana and ice cream, and cheese cake — all battered and deep-fried. They were simply too heavy to really be enjoyable — we all peeled away the batter and focused on the insides.
We went back with a new threesome to give lunch the going over, and even after the usual lunch hour the place was close to filled. Sakura appears to draw as much from the Sylvan Hills High School crowd as it does the older residents.
Our lunch special of shrimp tempura was overflowing with lightly fried goodies. We’re of the opinion now, though, that the massive growth of sushi steakhouses has also brought about the regular suppliers to these places of the same, pre-fab shrimp tempura. These shrimp sticks looked and tasted identical to ones from another completely different restaurant in Little Rock. That’s OK, they’re good, there is plenty to eat here (especially in vegetables) and it’s inexpensive.
The chowhounds with us chose hibachi steak and hibachi combo of grilled shrimp and chicken, both excellent. One of them uttered the words that probably are most important to Arkansas diners and why we like Sakura: it’s cheap, it’s quick, and it’s good. Just like dinner, though, it was almost too quick. It’s amazing the sushi chef can turn out rolls this fast (compared with a longtime favorite sushi spot in town that unfortunately is painfully slow).
A word about the hibachi: It’s like a hibachi bar, set in the back of the restaurant, where you can sit and watch, but it’s not as much of a show as Shogun and the like. In fact, the hibachi chefs told us that rarely does a customer request to sit back there and watch them. Rather, you order hibachi off the menu and they bring it to your table, without all the tricks and volcanic onions and such. The price is more like these Mongolian grills that have popped up in the market.
All in all, Sakura offers pretty standard Japanese steakhouse fare — not exceptional, but well done. Prices are all over the map, depending on what you order — from $5.25 for vegetable tempura to $24.95 for the “seafood lovers” house specialty. There’s a long list of a la carte sushi, including standard rolls and ones with names like the “Oh My God!” roll and the Little Rock roll.
Sakura will be opening a new location in Bryant this month.
Sakura Japanese Restaurant
4011 E. Kiehl Ave., Sherwood
Standard Japanese steakhouse and sushi fare — it’s hard to go wrong choosing from the extensive menu.
11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Moderate to expensive prices. Credit cards accepted. Full bar.