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Beyond sushi at Sakura, The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa, New Delhi

The new menu at Sakura, the Japanese fine dining restaurant at The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa is particularly kind to the vegetarians and yet retains the originality and authenticity when it comes to serving food from The land of rising Sun. Read on to find out what we liked the most:

New menu at Sakura offers a lot of choices for vegetarians.

This may be summer but cherry blossoms continue to rule hearts even if in spirit. I was reminded of the beautiful flowers on my recent dine-in at Sakura at The Metropoliltan Hotel & Spa, New Delhi. Of all the Japanese fine dining spaces in the city, Sakura has stood tall for sticking to conservative Japanese fare. This is also perhaps a reason that the restaurant has won itself plenty of loyalists, especially from the Japanese community – whether visiting or expat community settled in Delhi and its suburbs. Sakura, in Japanese, means cherry blossoms.

I can still recall my first visit to Sakura a really long time ago when they had first introduced their Bento boxes for afternoon lunch. Meant for those on the move, the boxes were a hit in no time. The selection was clean, flavours perfect and presentation no fuss. Even today, the philosophy holds true in every offering of the restaurant, including its décor. Clean lines, symmetrical presentation and minimalistic décor, the focus clearly is on what is being served without distracting the guest with the accompanying paraphernalia.

It was a quiet evening that I chose to dine in at Sakura – well, well past the Japanese dinner time. The only indicators to what must have been a busy evening were the staff doing up scattered table arrangements. A table by the window overlooking a canopy of green by the not-so–busy roadside was where I parked myself. A few tables away, a lone Japanese man in his business suit was busy punching onto his computer, even as his soup waited for him.

I pulled my thoughts away from the surrounds to focus on the menu before me. Here was an exhaustive list with classics and favourites complementing each other.  “Oh, there are so many vegetarian options!” exclaimed my dinner partner. A food lover herself, she was with me as a dip test to see if this restaurant took care of its vegetarian guests. Clearly, Sakura had cleared the test.

Some Endmame to go with a glass of Wasabi Martini.

As the manager led us through the menu, we learnt that the new additions in the menu especially focused on keeping the growing tribe of vegetarians happy. We opened our meal with a glass of Wasabi Martini and Endmame, my all time favourite blanched and salted soyabean pods.

The selection from the appetizer section took us the longest. With a little bit of help (and a lot of discussion) we zeroes in on Toffu Carpaccio for my vegetarian friend and a Shake (salmon) Carpaccio for myself. Thin slices of tofu and torched salmon (respectively) came dressed in seaweed and citrus soy sauce (called Tankatsu) with a generous sprinkling of spring onion.

Japanese love their spring onion, just as they do their soyabean, sesame and yes, Mayo! It is also interesting to note the variations they have in flavouring for soy sauce. And it is this distinct flavours that set each dressing apart from the other.

For the next order, we skipped the salad and quickly jumped to Okonomiyaki section. Okonomiyaki is the Japanese term for pizza, which is unlike the pizza that we all are used to in the rest of the world. The base in this case is not your regular bread but made out of tempura flour and rice noodles. The choice of meat or vegetables is kneaded into the base before it is cook. Since we had asked for a Yasai (or vegetable) Okonomiyaki, at the risk of sounding crude, the crunch was quite similar to the homemade cutlet. For topping there was more vegetables, Okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise!

Yasai Okonomiyaki or Japanese style pizza, anyone?

Those of my friends who have been to Japan have stories to share about the Japanese love for mayo. The young especially love to ladle their dishes with a generous slathering of the dressing. Okonomiyaki sauce is the Japanese variation of pizza sauce. An extension of the flavoured soy varieties, this one is tomato sauce mixed with dark soy. And you thought only Indians loved to “improvise” on foreign dishes!

In fact, like Okonomiyaki, Japanese also have their version of Croquettes. We tried out a small portion of Cheese Korokke (or a cheese croquette). Kids would love this selection. As for us, we could have let it pass.

When in Sakura, it is sin to skip sushi. No one does sushi like Sakura, really! One piece each of Ikura Nigiri (Salmon), Maguro Nigiri (Tuna) and Suzuki Nigini (Sea Bass) and I was sorted. My chopsticks worked around the vinegared seafood coated rice soaked in a little soya sauce and dabbed in wasabi for that dreamy bite.

If seeking recommendations, the steaks at Sakura are a must try. My Ginmutsu Saikyo Yaki or broiled Cod fish marinated with white Kyoto Soybean paste is actually one of their bestseller items! Understandably so as this preparation offers very delicate flavouring and allows the fish to retain its flavours.

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Tofu Steak at Sakura, The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa, New Delhi.

I had almost forgotten my friend by now, but the corner of my eye caught her greedily digging into her Tofu Steak (Pangrilled silken Tofu flame cooked in Teppanyaki sauce and served on a bed of vegetables).

Happy stomachs need a good soup at some point. This was the moment for us. A small portion of Miso soup with seaweed later, we were ready to devour our respective portions of Zaru Soba or cold Buckwheat noodles served with Soy based stock and sea weed for dressing.

Zaru Soba or cold Buckwheat noodles served with Soy based stock and sea weed for dressing.

And as they say, no meal is complete without a dessert. Fresh fruits and homemade ice creams made for a perfect finish for us. Sakura makes its own ice creams and in interesting flavours, such as Black Sesame, Red Beans, Green Tea and Wasabi . I tried all four but Black Sesame won hands down in the war of flavours.

Later, as we left the restaurant, we noticed it was back to being busy. This time, the guests looked like locals. It takes a lot to hold on to one’s style and be consistent with one’s offering to bring the crowds back. Clearly Sakura has mastered the art.

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