New Restaurant Blooms in Waialae

Columns Foodie Fare

October 21, 2012

Story By: Christina O Connor | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

In Japan, the beautiful sakura flowers bloom during the spring. It may be fall right now, but it’s clear that Sakura Restaurant, which just opened its doors a few weeks ago, is blooming into a popular, successful eatery.

Junichiro Tsuchiya, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother, head chef Ryojiro, describes the restaurant’s cuisine as Japanese-American. A glance over the menu reveals that Sakura features the best of both types of food, along with local favorites. The restaurant’s offerings include a wide variety of food — from spaghetti to udon.

The brothers hail from Japan, and after years of serving local patrons at their previous restaurant, they have cultivated a set of fusion dishes that combine their diverse influences perfectly. Dishes with a local influence include Spare Rib ($13.50), which is marinated in an aromatic shoyu-based teriyaki sauce. Pescatore Spaghetti ($15) features clams, scallops, shrimp and calamari served over pasta and with garlic bread.

“And we still keep traditional (Japanese) dishes such as sushi and sashimi, and Japanese-style tempura,” Junichiro says.

For a taste of Sakura’s Japanese flavors, try Unagi Avocado Donburi ($14.50), which is topped with nori and Japanese yam, and is served with miso soup.

“A lot of our customers might order a steak, but then they also order sushi,” he says.

No matter what type of food lures you into Sakura, the delectable homemade desserts are something that all diners will enjoy. These include Okinawa Sweet Potato Pudding, Tiramisu, Chocolate Cake and Cheesecake — all are priced at $4 each.

“We welcome any kind of customers — those who want to come for a beer and pupu after work, or those who want to enjoy a nice family dinner,” Junichiro says.

If you’re dining with a large group, Sakura’s menu is perfect, as it can cater to a range of different tastes and cravings. And for groups, there also is a room in the back of the restaurant that allows for a quieter, more intimate dining experience and can hold up to 15 people.

For those coming for some pau hana fun, Sakura’s happy hour is a great deal. It runs from 5 to 6 p.m. and from 9:30 p.m. to closing each night, and features drink and pupu specials. Beer, including locally made Aloha Beer, is just $2.95, and house wine and sake are available for $3.50. Select pupu, including tasty treats such as Spicy Ahi Hand Rolls and Mochiko Chicken and Fries, are just $5.

On the Side

Sakura Restaurant comes to its Waialae location from a previous home at Olomana Golf Course, where it had been for several years. Customers may recognize the co-owners, brothers Junichiro and Ryojiro Tsuchiya, from their days in Olomana, but the story started long before that. The Tsuchiya brothers were raised in the restaurant industry.

“My father owned a restaurant in Japan,” Junichiro says. That also was a Japanese-American-style eatery. Junichiro and Ryojiro had separate day jobs, but moonlighted as workers in their father’s restaurant.

Ryojiro, who now serves as Sakura’s head chef, learned to cook from their father and also has worked in French and Italian restaurants. “He likes to try all kinds of food,” Junichiro says.

Several years ago, all three moved to the Islands.

“(The golf course) had been looking for a restaurant, so my father brought me down to Hawaii,” Junichiro says.

The brothers honed their culinary craft at the golf course restaurant, but with their recent move, their menu has shifted, too.

“We have changed the menu. We now have more Japanese-American style,” Junichiro says, explaining that the previous restaurant focused on local and American dishes. At Sakura, diners can enjoy Japanese influences as well.

Sakura Restaurant has been at its new location for about a month now — and so far, the customers have been enjoying the restaurant’s fusion treats.

“We are really excited,” Junichiro says.

Sakura Restaurant

3008 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 5 p.m.-midnight
Closed Mondays
Note: Parking is available in Sakura’s lot, as well as in two additional nearby lots. After 5 p.m., parking is available in these lots in the stalls that are not reserved.

Honolulu, HI 96816

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