Monday, October 19, 2009

Sakura Garden, South Windsor, CT, October 2009

Food: B
Service: A-

Amy and Joanne write:

My husband loves sushi, so I often find myself at Japanese restaurants noshing on a bunch of appetizers – a Japanese version of dim sum. One of the places we’ve visited is Sakura Garden, where Chris enjoyed a humongous sushi/sashimi platter and I, uncharacteristically not hungry, only had the chicken tempura app with some white rice. That tempura, however, was delicious. I had that delicious tempura in mind when Joanne suggested Sakura Garden for our latest outing.

We decided to make it an early dinner and take advantage of Sakura’s great Happy Hour menu, on which soups, salads, hot appetizers, maki and hand rolls, well drinks, beer and wine all range from $2 to $4. It appeared this could be our cheapest outing yet.

We started with the tempura, which was as I remembered it. It had good structure – it was well-battered, but fried lightly enough to make it good and crispy out the outside with tender, juicy chicken inside.

We were off to a tasty—and free—start, as I had a coupon for a free tempura. Now it was time to work our way through the rest of the appetizers. I had looked at the menu while waiting for Amy, and decided that everything in the appetizer column, except for the edamame and the miso eggplant, appealed to me that afternoon. She agreed, so once the tempura came out, we worked our way down the list.

We loved the gyoza (pan fried dumplings) as much as the tempura. They were the perfect contrast of textures--tender inside with a nice crispness to the dumpling. The sesame ginger dipping sauce went very well with these. The haru maki (deep fried spring rolls) were also good, although we would have preferred them crispier and the peanut sauce that accompanied them, while tasty, was a bit thin. The yakitori, (chicken skewers) were tasty and tender, served with teriyaki for dipping.

All of these appetizers we would order again; the one big disappointment was the shrimp shumai. These were steamed to the point of sogginess and the consistency was quite mushy. As for the flavor, rather than fresh shrimp, all we could taste was fish. Fishy fish. A few of these remained on the plate.

Because this was Happy Hour, we were seated at the bar, of course, and always within eyeshot of our server, who was attentive and prompt. Toward the end of our appetizer sampling, we were offered a complimentary sake tasting—a nice, and unexpected, touch that brought our meal to a satisfactory close. We were full, we felt taken care of, and it didn’t break the bank. This was one of our least expensive excursions to date and a place to which we would both return—even on a tight budget.

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