MEET AND EAT: A SYMPHONY OF ASIAN CUISINE AT SAKURA
WORDS AND IMAGES: CHEF JP LE ROUX
Out & About visited the Sakura Restaurant in Westville, Durban. This is what we found…
If you enjoy Chinese and Japanese cuisine, then the latest addition to Westville Mall’s restaurant offering – Sakura – is for you.
Peering through the hour glass and going back in time to 2011 when I was a member of the WACS, I recall visiting the Southern Sun’s Elangeni Hotel and Daruma, arguably the most famous Japanese restaurant in KZN during a congress. I was fascinated by the skill set of the head chef at the teppanyaki bar. It is a perpetual show to see the master at work – even better than Madame Zigara, I might add.
A culinary skills set like this can only been admired and praised, so imagine my delight when, 13 years later, in suburbia, I stumbled on a hidden gem tucked away in a corner at the Westville Mall beside Nando’s and ABSA Bank.
On meeting chef Siphiwe Mazibuko, I discovered that that he hailed from Daruma (which has since relocated from the Elangeni). Konichiwa was the first words that was uttered – with many other positive expressions during the experience you are about to hear about.
From humble beginnings, he is now truly a show man who has gotten his practice down to perfection – a display that aligned both my vision and taste buds!
SERVICE AND PRACTICALITIES
As a chef and restaurateur, the most important thing for me is how I am welcomed to a restaurant. Whilst so many of us walk into a small suburban restaurant without being noticed and have to wave to get so much as a menu, let alone a welcome greeting, we noticed a difference. We were immediately welcomed by the maître D without so much as a fake smile. We were made to feel comfortable and relaxed. The most interesting part was that James Brown, who was responsible for front of house and Noma Maphalala, our waitron, started the whole experience off on a perfect note – not to mention the input from the manageress, who goes by the name of Kitty Song.
ON THE MENU
With three very well composed menus which offer everything from a variety of South East Asian cuisine to a sushi menu, that will take you a few months to work your way through as well as the Japanese teppanyaki bar, there’s plenty to keep one coming back for more.
Our luncheon “song” started at 12 noon and ended with a crescendo of flames and Saki at 4.30 pm with me behind the flat top, making the chef some Patagonian calamari. I honestly haven’t had so much fun in years.
We started out with the sushi which is well priced for the quality not to mention the buy-one-get-one-free option that you find in many sushi establishments these days. There are also other special offers. It was a class act for me.
The diversity of the sushi is overwhelming – from the salmon rose deluxe (4 piece), to the Durban platter (38 piece for only R265) and my favourite, the deep sea monster, a layer of tempura prawn, seared tuna, with a grilled prawn on top and garnished with deep fried vermicelli (R50). I’ve had this dish 3 consecutive times and the quality, quantity and consistency were spot on every time.
As an executive chef, I am an extremely fussy diner and so was the collective company I kept on the day in question. I was accompanied by a good friend who counts the prawns in her soup, another special friend who is probably fussier than me and my business partner and editor, Shirley le Guern. Say no more…
After our delightful entrees, we went to South East Asia with wonton and corn soup, dim sum, angry chicken and pineapple, chop suey and chow main duck (which I will be sampling during my next luncheon this week).
Next in line was the teppanyaki. It is truly an honour to be served by such as well-trained chefs. We all enjoyed the love that came through as he cooked up a feast whilst Kitty Song was smiling – or was that singing – in the background.
Because our meal was being prepared right in front of us, there could be no hidden agendas. What you see is what you get. This is truly an open food platform.
Our order was for the chicken, the Patagonian calamari and the prince prawns, served with noodles, egg fried rice and vegetables. It was flawless and the only recommendation I have is to skip the prince prawns which are more shell than meat and rather order eight queen (R168) or six king prawns (R188).
There is also a selection of fresh hake, tuna, kingklip and salmon on the menu with tofu steak and a selection of fresh vegetables – and for the foodies, grilled scallops and oysters which are up there with my taste buds.
There is nothing more satisfying than ending a meal with a speciality desert. This one went up in flames. It was truly banana fireworks as the teppanyaki style grilled local bananas were prepared with a Saki flambé.
This certainly was a “Love You Long Time” experience. We were all surprisingly satisfied with the excellent service, the quality, portion size and price point at Sakura. Together with my fussy diner friends, this chef raised a glass and toasted “kampai to Sakura” and the friendly staff that made this a very memorable experience.
VENUE: Shop 27A Westville Mall, Westville
Open 7 days a week – 12 pm till 8 30pm
Sit in and take out – with a comfortable (if somewhat bland) outside dining area
safe and secure parking
The restaurant expects to be fully licenced by February. Meanwhile, corkage is R30.
Expect all day sushi specials and a Tuesday special, a combo meal teppanyaki with a complimentary chicken teppanyaki.
Sakura has three other branches in Glenwood, Durban North and on the Bluff..