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Inside Feature

Savory Selections Are in Full Bloom

By Kyle Galdeira Photos By Nathalie Walker
February 10, 2013

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Just as the Japanese cherry blossoms continue to bloom year after year, Sakura Restaurant – which draws its name from the iconic flower – is flourishing yet again.

Jun and Ryo Tsuchiya co-own Sakura Restaurant on Waialae Avenue, and the brothers continue to please Hawaii’s diners after initially gaining culinary experience by working for their father at his restaurant in Japan. The duo operated the eatery at Olomana Golf Course for several years, but moved to their current locale last September. In addition to a change of scenery, the restaurant’s new incarnation has included more traditional Japanese dishes on the menu.

Ryo brings a wealth of experience to the kitchen, and in addition to traditional Japanese cuisine, the chef also incorporates French, Italian, American and local influences in the vast array of dishes.

“We feature traditional Japanese food, but not only that, we also have a lot of pupu-style selections,” says Jun. “Before we came to Hawaii, we worked separately. Now, we’re able to continue working together at this new location.”

Sakura serves up a host of popular lunch items, which include salads and burgers, local-style plate lunches and teishoku “complete meal” sets. Jun recommends Ahi Tataki Ponzu ($10.95), as the seared fish is accompanied by ponzu dipping sauce along with the Teishoku set, which includes rice, miso soup, tossed salad and cold tofu. Plate lunch varieties include: Loco Moco ($9.95), Kalbi and Mochiko Chicken ($9.95), Pork or Chicken Katsu Curry ($9.50) and Kalua Pig Fried Rice ($9.50).

Special items are available daily at Sakura, including Motsu Nikomi ($5.95), a miso-based soup with pork giblets, tofu, gobo root and green onions.

“This soup is very popular with our Japanese customers,” says Jun of the traditional favorite.

Dinner selections at Sakura can be enjoyed as stand-alone entrees or shared pupu-style among groups. Chef Ryo prepares a variety of steaks, including Garlic Ribeye Steak ($18 for 8 ounces, $24 for 12 ounces). The steak is sauteed in a special garlic sauce, and is served sizzling hot with vegetables and a choice of country-style potatoes or rice.

Soft Shell Crab Tempura ($16) is one of Sakura’s specialty seafood dinner selections, and serves up the lightly battered and deep-fried crustacean along with vegetable tempura. The dish, as well as the other specialty fish entrees, is served with rice and miso soup.

And, what meal would be complete without a delectable dessert to cap the experience? Sakura Restaurant features both Caramel and Chocolate Cheese Cake ($6 each) topped with a hearty scoop of vanilla ice cream.

“We welcome all kinds of customers — those who want to come to enjoy a beer and pupus after work, or families looking for a nice dinner,” says Jun of the restaurant, which also features a private dining area for larger groups. “Also, after the UH sporting events, our Happy Hour specials are still going after the games.”

Sakura has expanded its popular Happy Hour specials, which are now available from 5 to 6 p.m., and again from 9 p.m. to closing. The pau hana and late-night specials include $2.95 beers, such as locally brewed Aloha Beer “lager” and “red” varieties on tap, as well as Heineken and Corona bottles. House wines, multiple varieties of sake and other liquor selections are available for $3.50, including mimosas, margaritas, Smirnoff vodka, Jim Beam bourbon and Iichiko Shochu.

Diners also may take advantage of the Happy Hour pupu menu, which features a wide range of selections for just $5 each. The tasty appetizers include Tomato and Tofu Carpaccio, Cold Tofu and Kimchee, Fried Shumai and Gyoza, Calamari and Fries and Spicy Ahi Hand Rolls.

“I want to thank our loyal customers who come from all over, including Waimanalo, Kaneohe and Kailua, to find us,” Jun says. “A lot of people know about the new location, but for those who haven’t been here yet, we encourage them to come and give it a try.”

Sakura Restaurant

3008 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
259.7100
Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. (lunch), 5 p.m. – Midnight (dinner and late night)
Sunday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. (lunch), 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. (dinner and late night)
Closed Mondays