Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. closed Monday. Reservations are recommended, particularly for the Japanese rooms.
The Sakura on Georgia Avenue is a Japanese restaurant whose fine authentic cooking and quietly gracious service has won over a legion of regular customers - adults and children alike - since it opened 17 years ago.
On a recent frigid Saturday night, my husband, two daughters and I arrived a the Sakura in our oldest keep-warm outfits and were welcomed by a smiling Japanese woman dressed in a kimono and obi. We took off our shoes and were led to one of the Japanese rooms where we sat on straw mats and cushions at traditional low tables.
Children especially loved this, but after 10 minutes my husband was complaining that his back hurt (a Gibson on the rocks quickly consoled him). Anyway, there are plenty of tables and booths for less supple adults.
No matter where you sit or how busy the restaurant is, the service is unhurried and attentive. Our waitress knelt at our table and patiently described the various dishes on the menu, which offers no American cooking.
But the three basic methods of Japanese cooking - teriyaki, Sukiyaki and tempura - were well suited to our tastes. We shared an appetizer ($3.60) of assorted tempura - shrimp and carrot and eggplant slices dipped in a very light batter and deep-fried. These are served with a delicate sauce.
For entrees, both girls, ages 7 to 10, opted for beef teriyaki ($6), slices of Delmonico beef broiled and seasoned with a light sauce, which they loved. Other items cooked teriyaki-style include chichken and pork, each $5.
My husband had seafood sukiyaki for $4.50. Shrimp, shelfish, fish, onions, jelly noodles and spinach are braised together in an iron skillet in what might be described as a delicious version of Japanese nouillabaise. Nonseafood sukiyaki combinations available are beef for $6, pork and chicken for $5, vegetables for $6.50.
I decided to keep going with the tempura and ordered an assortment which included shrimp, chicken, fish and vegetables for $6. A straight shrimp tempura dinner is $4.50 or $6, chicken is $4.50.
Mixed drinks at the Sakura are $1.50 and shoft drinks, which arrived with souvenir miniature Japanese lanterns stuck in them, are 50 cents. Desserts (ice cream, melon, cookies) range from 50 to 85 cents. The ginger cookies are excellent, crisp and dusted with powdered sugar.
Tea and rice are 25 cents extra per person on the ala carte menu. We have had the full dinners, including soup, salad, appetizer, entree and dessert, on previous visits but found them to be more than we could eat. Dinners can be split, however.
True connoisseurs of Japanese cooking will enjoy the sushi bar, where they can order seafood such as squid, fish, octopus or shrimp served with a pungent rice mixture.
With advance notice, Frank Kuge, proprietor of the Sakura, is willing to prepare special dinners not necessarily offered on the menu.
Customers should be aware that a minimum tip of $1 per person is automatically added to the bill. Our bill totaled $31.45 with a $5 tip.
Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Mondays. Reservations are recommended,particularly for the Japanese rooms, JU. 7-7070.