I started off light last week with Mediterranean food and now I’m bumping things up a few notches and trying to find something that not everyone — my mother included — would readily want to eat. So this week, I was on a quest for eel.
I went into the week hoping for it to be a proper eel week, and due to a combination of my shocking distractibility and my lack of eel experience, this really ended up being something more of Japanese week, with just a sliver of eel in the mix. But I did try eel, I promise, so don’t doubt me just yet.
The restaurant that I selected along with the help of my boyfriend, Ryan, this week was Sakura Home: Japanese Sushi and Hibachi. We also went a couple of months ago, but on the hibachi side of the restaurant. And the hibachi was certainly a crowd pleaser (11/10 would recommend), so we were quite eager to put the sushi to the test.
This restaurant is visually stunning. Artistic, yet homey and comfortable — an extremely inviting combination. Immediately upon entering, customers are confronted with plenty of visual stimulation — a sleek, dark tile-faced bar straight ahead and an elegant wooden bridge arched over a small indoor pond to the right. As the kids would say: “so aesthetic.”
For our first course, Ryan and I opted for the beef negimaki. This wheel of teriyaki steak and scallions is a shared favorite of ours, so we definitely came into this one with enough experience to properly judge. We got what we were hoping for. The beef was cooked perfectly — firm enough to hold the classic roll shape, yet still tender. The teriyaki glaze was warm, sticky, and flavorful. And of course, there was that beautiful central crunch from the crisp scallions. Not too dramatically surprising, it was simply a really nice version of a classic. One nice adjustment, however, was making the individual wheels of negimaki perfectly bite-sized. Being able to eat the negimaki in one bite allowed for all the flavors to burst in your mouth at once. Plus, everything is cuter when bite-sized, that is a fact. Google it.
The entrée portion was where I started to get a little sidetracked from my objective. There was a full eel dish that actually sounded enticing, even to a first-timer like myself. However, I could not resist the siren call: one of the specialty sushi rolls. And thus we ordered the “Tuna Lover Roll” with two pieces of unagi (eel) sashimi on the side.
The roll definitely lived up to our desires. The spicy tuna on the inside of the roll had almost a whipped texture, which I thought was fabulous. It was still perfectly creamy, yet did not succumb to any denseness, so it remained refreshing. The plain tuna on top of the roll gave the perfect freshness to cleanse the palate of the slight internal heat so that we could start each bite fresh without any lingering buildup of spice. I would 100 percent order this again if there weren’t so many other specialty sushi rolls to try.
Our mistake with the unagi sashimi was that we didn’t realize when we were eating it. Confusing, I know. But it went something like this: the chef had put our sashimi on the same plate as our sushi, off to the side along with the garnishes. And we didn’t recognize it as the sashimi because we had mixed it up with nigiri, thinking that sashimi was the dish served on rice. Whoops.
However, even though my silly self did not realize I was eating eel at the time, I did enjoy the unagi for the mystery side dish that I thought it was. It was probably as far from my expectation of eel as it possibly could have been, at least texture-wise. The unagi was incredibly light and creamy — I absolutely am not exaggerating when I say it was a melt-in-your-mouth kind of bite. And if eel does usually have any sort of a “fishy” taste, I absolutely did not get any of that with this one — not underneath the wonderfully-sharp miso glaze, at least. Surprise eel eating? Overall, yeah, would do again.
Dessert was fried cheesecake. I didn’t find anything special or innovative about this particular fried cheesecake, but I still very much enjoyed it. I wish that the cheesecake would have been a bit softer and less frozen, and the fried coating would have been warmer and crisper, giving more contrast. But yeah, duh I’m going to like deep-fried, chocolate-sauce-covered cheesecake, regardless. So this was still perfect satisfaction for my undying sweet tooth.
Start to finish, this was an entirely satisfying meal. Almost across the board, we ordered things that ended up being pretty creamy, yet nothing was overly heavy. Everything was light and flavorful and, to our pleasant surprise we were not left comatose at the end of the night. I would absolutely return to Sakura Home to fulfill future sushi cravings — especially since we discovered on our way out that, Monday to Friday, the restaurant has a “happy hour” during which select sushi rolls cost only $5.95 and select specialty rolls go down to $12.95. I absolutely wish to return to Sakura Home for some sushi happiness during happy hour.