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Sakura is a Japanese restaurant located in the fashionable Botanic area in Belfast. Itís location on Botanic Avenue is ideal for public transport links, as itís two minutes from Botanic Train Station there is also a Metro bus stop close by. I always drive though, and parking is plentiful in the area, though there is a charge during the day of £1 an hour or so. It can also get very busy on a Saturday night in the area, but Iíve always managed to find a space somewhere!
The decor is very japanese inspired, and quite dark, though not uncomfortably so. There is also no background music, and as the restaurant is fairly small, there isn't a lot of background noise. The restaurant is set over two floors, the ground floor is mainly taken up by the large sushi train in the centre of the restaurant with a few low tables around the other corners of the restaurant. The upstairs tends to be for larger bookings, or when the downstairs is full.
Even if you are planning on ordering off the menu, you can try a few items that takes your fancy on the train. Each dish has a small sticker on them which indicates the price and these are just added to your bill. Amongst the items I have tried were the horrible tempura tofu and what looked like macaroons but tasted like marzipan, but itís all part of the experience I guess. The nice dishes, such as the salmon and mango sushi more than make up for the disappointments that Iíve tried on the train.
The main menu is varied with a large sushi and sashimi selection, and each item is explained in detail what it is for those new to the cuisine. It even gives you hints and suggestions on what to eat together and how to eat the food. There is also a god selection of other options if you are not keen on sushi. The first couple of times I went here, I ordered both a main meal and sushi, not realising quite how filling the sushi was, but now we order some sushi to share and a main mean each.
The drinks menu is varied and includes a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails for around £4- £5 each, which is an average price for a cocktail in Belfast. There is also a wide selection of wines and beers available.
Sakura have chopsticks as their standard cutlery and you just help yourself from the dispensers. The staff do ask though if you need a knife and/or fork. I always order the same thing and while eating fried rice with chopsticks is a challenge, I am getting the hang of it!
The dessert menu, in my opinion is the only slight let down, as there isn't a wide selection. The last time I was there though, my friend ordered the mystery ice cream, which was very nice, though we still have no idea what flavour it was. Though, usually we are too stuffed for dessert anyway!
The meals average around £25 a head excluding alcohol (we never order alcohol, as Iím always driving, just either water or a soft drink each), which is slightly more expensive than some places in Belfast, but it is worth it for the quality of food. There are lunch specials, mainly based on a cheaper price for the items on the train and also offer take away.