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Cover Story

Sakura Blossoms With Authentic Japanese Fare

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
August 26, 2012

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As Japan’s unofficial national flower, the cherry blossom, or sakura, has been appreciated for centuries and maintains a position of status in Japanese culture. In Japan, you’ll find an abundance of this exquisite flower in bloom each spring, as many celebrate a sense of grandeur with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties under the blossoming trees.

And while it’s definitely not springtime, a bounty of authentic Japanese fare is always in bloom at Sakura Terrace Japanese Cafe. Having opened last November, this heavenly oasis is located on South King Street, and despite its busy surroundings, it’s the most serene setting to enjoy a lunch with friends or an intimate dinner for two.

According to the restaurant’s marketing director Marilyn Cariaga, the initial dining concept of Sakura Terrace was to predominantly serve donburi dishes. However, it soon branched out and began offering grilled meats, sushi and the freshest of seafood.

“Fresh seafood is greatly consumed in Japan, which also is known for having one of the longest life expectancies,” says Sakura Terrace owner Katsue Ichikawa. “A lot of healthy vegetables are made in Hawaii, too. We decided to open Sakura Terrace so that we could provide everyone with fresh and hearty dishes. Here, you’ll find a diversity of healthy items on our menu that are low in calories.”

Topping the list of the restaurant’s most coveted dishes that entice all palates is Sakura Chirashi Don ($18). Available for both lunch and dinner, diners are presented with an exceptional array of ahi, hamachi, salmon, uni and ikura over a bed of sushi rice infused with salmon flakes and topped with wasabi sprouts and pickled ginger.

“This is definitely our No. 1 seller,” Ichikawa says, noting that Kozakura Bento is quickly gaining a following with guests as well. Priced at $13.75 for lunch and dinner, Kozakura Bento features black tiger shrimp tempura and salad, with your personalized choice of salmon and ikura (salmon roe, spicy tuna, yellow tail and tuna, or poke).

“It’s really about a local and Japanese collaboration here,” Ichikawa explains. “But it’s also very important that the authentic Japanese flavor of the food stands out. We’re fortunate that business has been doing well.”

Sakura’s success derives from the fact that kamaaina and visitors alike fall head over heels in love with other favorites such as Sakura Bento Special ($15.75 for lunch, $18 dinner). The bento for the most indecisive of diners intrigues all your senses with a beautiful presentation of rice, miso soup, salad and your choice of two dishes, including sashimi (ahi, hamachi, salmon), shrimp and seasonal vegetable tempura, saikoro steak (cubed steak on thinly sliced potatoes), teriyaki chicken and grilled salmon.

Sakura Tendon ($15 lunch and dinner) is a tempura lover’s dream come true with two scrumptious shrimp and seasonal vegetables (bell peppers, zucchini, sweet potato) served on white steamed rice and splashed with a savory tempura sauce. Miso soup and tsukemono also complete the meal.

And while hearty entrees usually take the spotlight on the dining scene, Scallop Carpaccio ($11.75) is a lighter dish that stands in a class of its own while bringing a blend of Japanese and Italian fusion to the table. This refreshing creation consists of a bed of mixed greens decorated with scallops, ikura (salmon roe), tobiko (flying fish roe) and black tobiko (caviar) doused with a tasty dressing comprised of balsamic, vinegar and mayonnaise.

Saving the best for last, a sweet ending lies in nothing but Sakura Parfait ($5), a layered dessert, which boasts a scoop of vanilla ice cream and is adorned with warabi mochi, strawberries, corn flakes and azuki beans drizzled with kuromitsu (Japanese sugar syrup).

The restaurant’s flowering menu also offers an array of drink options, which are made right before your eyes at the fully stocked bar. Cariaga says the sakes and Savory Sakura ($8.50) bring a whole new dimension to any meal.

“We like to feature seasonal cuisine and celebrate Japanese occasions, so you’ll always find new things on our menu. You’ll never get bored,” Ichikawa says with a smile.

“Sakura Terrace also can customize your menu for special events,” Cariaga adds. “Customized menus require a six-person minimum and prices begin at $28.”

Escape to a world of tranquility at Sakura Terrace, where outstanding flavors and deliciously healthy fare are always in full bloom.

Sakura Terrace Japanese Cafe

1240 S. King St., Honolulu
591.1181
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (cafe/lunch), 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. (dinner)
Sundays, 4:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. (dinner)
sakuraterrace.com