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Fishing for sushi

The revamped, extended menu at Sakura offers greater variety to choose from, keeping it relevant amid an influx of new Japanese restaurants.

Fishing for sushi
The fried California Maki is a crispy, battered version of the original roll.

Pakistan’s love affair with sushi and Japanese cuisine has recently bloomed. Apart from the older established restaurants in hotels that cater to foreign tourists, standalone establishments are popping up all across the country to satiate the growing demand for the seafood delicacies. With greater competition, the reputed eateries have had to shake things up in order to retain their edge. Sakura is a staple on the local gastronomical map whether you’re in Lahore, Karachi or Islamabad. Located inside the Pearl Continental Hotel in Karachi and Lahore, or Marriott in Islamabad’s case, the upscale restaurant has always boasted of an extensive Japanese menu but recently introduced an augmented sushi selection to keep up with wacky innovations the newer spots are offering.

Instep stopped by to review the new menu at Sakura in Lahore and ascertain whether the additions are worth the hype or not.

Turns out, they are. The restaurant now offers an entirely dedicated menu for sushi, sashimi and nigiri, also introducing Temaki cones, the latest craze to hit the circuit from California to Dubai. We started with a regular favourite, the spicy Nana wings. Nana wings are a staple at Japanese restaurants across the country and while they may seem deceptively simple, there is an art to making chicken wings that balance succulence with just the right degree of doneness. Many a restaurant has lost that delicate battle but Sakura got it right, packing a punch with its spicy glaze that is otherwise missing in the salt-heavy cuisine.

For the next course, we ordered a wide assortment of sushi and sashimi and what clearly stood out was the quality of the seafood and its freshness. The finely cut pieces of meat – ranging from tuna to shrimp to salmon and white fish – had just the right, melt-in-your-mouth texture and between two people we managed to polish off quite a generous amount. The California roll was a hit, with the tiny cucumber chunks providing a delicious crunchy contrast to the silky rice and crab meat rolled inside. The crispy battered version of the California roll, while it may not appeal to sushi snobs who are likely to turn their noses up at its deep fried state, was quite a fun and filling addition to the meal.

Maki is the most basic form of sushi but this standard seaweed and tuna roll got an interesting update with the Zahra and OJ Maki on the menu. The latter featured a rice and salmon wrap on the outside while the former was served with a sumptuous teriyaki sauce.

Served in a bowl of ice that looks cool and serves a purpose as well, the sashimi platter at Sakura shouldn't be missed.

Served in a bowl of ice that looks cool and serves a purpose as well, the sashimi platter at Sakura shouldn’t be missed.

For those of you who are true carnivores at heart and need more than just white meat to fulfil their heart’s desire, we’re happy to report that the beef dishes on the menu were just as divine. The Beef Negimayaki – juicy rolled strips of beef marinated in teriyaki sauce and filled with crispy spring onions – made a smart choice for those of you on a low-carb diet, since its one of the few dishes on offer that doesn’t include a side of rice or noodles or isn’t fried. The beef teppanyaki was the perfect last course to end a scrumptious meal, with the succulent beef strips cooked to perfection and served with crunchy stir fried veggies and sticky garlic rice.

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