Kingston has a large amount of Japanese restaurants but unfortunately all of their authenticity comes into question as most are under managed by Koreans or Chinese. It’s apparent when you look at their menus and realize that there’s a whole other section dedicated to their cuisine alongside the japanese fare. It begs one to wonder why they don’t just specialize strictly in their food as I would happily go to an authentic Korean BBQ place over a less authentic Japanese restaurant but that’s beside the point.
For my 20th birthday, I was having a major cravings for sushi. I had originally considered ordering in as I was still in the process of making my birthday cake and didn’t want to stop but after consulting some of the prices plus the cost of delivery, that idea was quickly squashed. I’ve been a little weary of eating sushi in Kingston due to price and freshness. I’m used to the concept of All-You-Can-Eat (AYCE) which is easily found in Toronto for a rather affordable price. I’m also the type of person who often doesn’t eat sushi (to keep it a more special occasion when I do) so when I eat it, I eat TONS of it!
I had heard good things from friends about Sakura, claiming that it was the only place in Kingston to go for sushi. In hindsight now, I realize their advice is a little one-sided since most have not ventured to other sushi places beside Asha and Ta-ke, both of which I’ve read enough mixed reviews. But since it was AYCE, I decided to give it a try. Now A is not a fan of sushi but since it was MY birthday, he was willing to go along.
When we arrived I wasn’t sure whether or not to go for the teppanyaki menu or the AYCE sushi menu since I knew that A would probably prefer the teppanyaki more, but I couldn’t ignore my craving and convinced him to just give it a try. The place was rather busy even for a Wednesday night. I realized a little later that another birthday get together was going on. Itwasn’t overly loud and we still were able to enjoy the evening.
There were two menus provided with the option of AYCE sushi. One listed their menu standards while the other featured some special items. You could definitely tell the Chinese influence on the place as there were quite a number of Chinese dishes. I was really craving udon noodles as I remembered fondly of this delicious soup with udon noodles dish that I always have at one of my favourite Japanese restaurants back in Toronto. Since I wasn’t interested in soup, I opted for the stir-fried variety, chicken yaki-udon.
NOTE* I apologize in advance for the yellow tinge lighting on all the photos. This is the flaw in having only a P&S and forgetting to turn flash on. I also apologize for a lack of photos as I was so hungry, I almost forgot to take any at all.
The udon itself tasted okay, nothing remarkable. It just needed more flavour. The chicken was horribly dry even amongst the sauce/soup of the yaki-udon. I prefer a little more bite to my vegetables but it would do. The portion was perfect as it allowed you a sample. Any more and I would have over-stuffed myself on the highly starchy noodles.
Next up was the chicken and steak teriyaki:
As you can see, I couldn’t manage to get a photo of the steak fast enough before A ate it all up. It was probably the only thing on the menu he was willing to eat. The steak teriyaki was deliciously tender. It wasn’t overly chewy and just melted in your mouth. The teriyaki sauce that accompanied it wasn’t overpowering or too sweet as some other Japanese places do it. For example Ta-Ke normally has the meat swimming in its sauce, which I often don’t mind because I’m a huge sauce fan, but of course, the steak should be the highlight. It was a reasonable portion but since it was so delicious we opted to get 3 more servings I believe, most of it going towards A and his appetite. Unfortunately their steaks were inconsistent which dampened our excitement and praise for their steak. One ended up being a little too rare for my liking. I don’t like a steak too well done but it was bleeding a little too much for me to attempt to digest. Another steak was overcooked for its thickness and size so it ended up being horribly chewy with very little flavour, even with the teriyaki sauce. All in all, their steaks didn’t match that of the first experience and we deemed it as a fluke on their part.
As for the chicken, just like the pieces found in the udon, it too was horribly dry despite the sauce. It lacked flavour and had an unsettling mealy taste to it. It may just have been that night but as a safe bet, I’d avoid it.
I also ordered some shrimp & vegetable tempura:
I love tempura and try as I might, I just can’t get it to be like those I find at Japanese restaurants (I’m still working on it) . I don’t normally get the vegetables but it came as a set along with the shrimp. It was fried to perfection, not overly oily. The shrimp were a good size and didn’t have too much coating. I love sweet potato tempura so that out of the vegetables was the best. The onion was a little undercooked but overall a tasty fried dish.
A also ordered some chicken fried rice (I don’t know why we kept ordering the chicken knowing how bad it was, wishful thinking I guess). It was a medium size portion (although much too big for my capabilities at that point). Upon discovering onions A decided not to eat anymore and left that up to me. The chicken was again horribly dry and I picked them out of the rice. The rice didn’t have a lot of flavour but it was passable as a filler. I could certainly fry up a better batch at home.
The one and only photo I took of the sushi as it was presented to me ended up being far too blurry to showcase so the best I can provide is the photo above with the few pieces of sushi seen at the bottom right hand side.
Knowing that A wasn’t going to partake in the sushi experience I ordered their Sunshine roll (8pcs), as well as a Spicy Tuna roll (6pcs). They describe their Sunshine roll as having ‘Salmon, Tempura & Avocado Inside, Topped with Fresh Salmon, Scallion Spicy Creamy Sauce and Crunchy’. Upon its arrival I was disappointed to realize that the inside salmon was cooked and I’m not particularly a fan of cooked salmon, especially in sushi but I ate it anyway. To be honest, it wasn’t anything remarkable. It was well balanced in textures, underwhelming in flavours and not all that exciting. As for the spicy tuna roll, there was too much rice for my liking and after all the other food I indulged in, I didn’t need more starchiness from rice. It too was nothing spectacular.
A and I shared a vanilla ice cream to finish the meal which was sadly probably one of the best things of the night.
Dinner prices are as listed (and of course subject to change):
Overall, it satisfied my craving for the time being but was nothing compared to my experiences back in Toronto. I don’t know if i’ll be returning for their sushi but I may give their teppanyaki a try as I’ve heard mixed reviews on that as well. This time around quantity sufficed the lack in quality. A who didn’t eat much from the menu and was disappointed in the steak at the end probably won’t be joining me for another sushi adventure, however he’s never experienced the cheesy show that teppanyaki offers so maybe we’ll go just to give him something new to look at.
As for service, it was certainly lacking. We ended up having to follow up several times for some items and they often took a tad too long to clear the finished dishes. There’s definite improvement to be made there.
Sakura also features delivery which I will be reviewing next.
Sakura Japanese Restaurant
1350 Bath Rd., Kingston. ON