November 15, 2006
Sakura Blooms Along J Street

Sushi is fine anytime, but when the weather turns cool and damp I gravitate to foods darker, warmer and meatier. That doesn't rule out dining at a Japanese restaurant, however, especially if it's the new Sakura Sushi & Teppan Grill along lower J Street.

I stopped in for lunch today and found sleek quarters, an engaging staff, and an extensive menu that while deep with sashimi and sushi also offers several hefty teppanyaki and hibachi dishes, the former stir-fried on a steel griddle, the latter grilled. Both include various cuts of beef, chicken, scallops, salmon and shrimp, either on their own or in various combinations.

From the hibachi list, I ordered the "chef's special" ($10.50), which included a salad of mostly iceberg lettuce topped with a miso dressing, a small bowl of steamed rice, adequate portions of tender and attentively cooked teriyaki beef, hibachi chicken, and zucchini, mushrooms and white onion, and two dipping sauces, one ginger, the other cream with soy sauce and mustard. Japanese hot green tea is free with everything. It was one of the more expensive lunch items. Dinner patrons can spend much more, up to $29.50 for a teppanyaki platter of shrimp, scallops and lobster.

Charlie Huynh, a veteran chef and manager with the Benihana chain of restaurants, opened Sakura about six weeks ago on the ground floor of the U.S. Bank building at 980 Ninth St. He's hoping it will be the first in an eventual chain, says manager Cindy Huynh, no relation.

Sakura, the Japanese name of an ornamental cherry tree, is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday; (916) 444-1030.

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