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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Sakura Sushi: A Slice of Japan in Cairo
Sushi is still all the rage in Cairo and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, but with Makani and Mori Sushi dominating the market, it pays to shake things up once in awhile. Enter Sakura Sushi, a hidden treasure tucked away not far from Ethos Café in Maadi.
While a sushi outing to Sakura holds none of the glamour of a night out at Mori Sushi, the food’s quality makes up for the underwhelming atmosphere. Sakura Sushi has the atmosphere of a true family-style Japanese restaurant: while the decor is kitschy, service is impeccable and the staff are knowledgeable about menu options and helpful in providing suggestions.
To start off, try a traditional miso soup (10LE) or go off the beaten track with a Japanese-style seafood soup full of crab, shrimp and salmon (20LE). Salad options are much better than the usual selection at sushi joints, with interesting offerings like the wastachi, which is made from dried fish, spinach and soy sauce (10LE).
As for Japanese appetisers, we like the classic yassai tempura, which consists of vegetables fried in a light Japanese batter and served with a flavourful dipping sauce (25LE) and the tori karage, a scrumptious fried chicken concoction with ginger and soy sauce (30LE). There is also a noodle menu with basic ramen and soba options priced at between 10LE and 50LE.
Non-sushi main course options provide something above and beyond typical Japanese menus in Cairo. The salmon teriyaki (60LE) is a well-executed classic at Sakura, made with the freshest salmon and glorious homemade teriyaki sauce. We also like the shouga yaki, a delicious beef dish with ginger and soy (55LE). Order rice with these main dishes– Sakura does justice to this Japanese staple in a way rarely found in Cairo; so take advantage.
Sushi options are divided into per-piece selections which range in price from 7LE to 15LE and include standard selections of shrimp, eel and salmon. The per-piece special sushi options include interesting offerings such as salmon and tuna slices marinated in ginger soy and wasabi.
Sashimi is a great value at Sakura, at 40LE to 65LE for 10 pieces. Maki rolls come in 6 pieces and are priced at 15LE to 40LE. The 8-piece California rolls are a great choice. Priced between 25LE to 50LE, there are unique fillings like tuna, onions and spicy sauce with caviar. A variety of hand rolls and special combo plates are also available.
With a menu like this, taking a break from your typical sushi joint is more of a culinary adventure than a risk: next time the sushi craving hits; head to Sakura Sushi for unique and delicious Japanese dining.
Japanese cuisine in Egypt is probably one of the most misunderstood. There’s so much more to it than just sushi, but with the grouping of all Asian cuisines into single restaurants that serve Thai, Korean, Japanese and Chinese, it becomes increasingly more difficult to make a distinction.
Sakura Sushi is one of Maadi’s older restaurants. On our original visit in 2010, at the height of the sushi fad in Cairo, we had a great experience, so we decided we’d stop by the very modestly sized restaurant on Road 231 - just next to Stavolta - and see how an old favourite at Japanese cuisine has dealt with the last four years.
The interior decor hasn’t changed much from the kitschy family diner feel, but the staff is still as friendly as ever, seating us promptly and offering any required assistance with the menu.
Offering an interesting selection of soups, salads and appetisers, the menu also features several delicious main courses such as Chicken Katsu and Salmon Teriyaki, alongside rice, noodles and the sushi menu.
To get an all around sense, we opted for the Hana Combo (130LE) a 24-piece sushi combo featuring 10 sushi rolls, 8 California rolls, and 6 Maki rolls of your choice, as well as a Beef Teriyaki (60LE) main course and an order of Fried Rice with Vegetables (10LE).
Serving time was relatively prompt and the food certainly looked delicious upon arrival. From the Hana Combo, what stood out the most were the Crispy California Rolls featuring shrimp tempura, crab and a delicious teriyaki sauce, as well as the Philadelphia Rolls, featuring Salmon and cream cheese. While the sushi was certainly tasty, and of decent size, they all seemed to fall apart in the soy sauce or halfway to your mouth.
The Teriyaki Beef, is one of the best renditions of teriyaki sauce we’ve had to date. The beef itself was a little more chewy than desirable, but the biggest problem with the dish was the small portion for 60LE. The Fried Rice, aside from being an excellent complement to the beef, is possibly the best fried rice we’ve had anywhere, and could potentially save any main course.
To be honest, we expected a little more from Sakura, the generally underwhelming atmosphere was usually made up for to us by excellent food and service, which they still have but need to tweak slightly.