Renovated restaurant opens the world of Asian cuisine
● Published by J. Chambless
Cecilia Chen is the manager of the recently renovated Sakura Hibachi and Sushi.
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By John Chambless
Early last May, Cecilia Chen opened the doors to Sakura Hibachi and Sushi, and she's been opening up the wide, delicious world of Asian cuisine ever since.
Extensive interior renovations have turned the former buffet restaurant into a warm, richly decorated space with arches separating three dining areas – a sit-down sushi bar, an area with booths and tables, and six hibachi grills, where groups can share the tableside cooking magic of chefs at work.
During an interview at the restaurant, Chen said she and her family worked with builders to create a welcoming interior, with a subtly lighted blue ceiling that looks like a twilight sky. The arches in the center of the room suggest a garden area where patrons can sit down and enjoy Asian cuisine that's impeccably prepared and presented.
“I get a lot of compliments about how the place looks now,” Chen said. Installing the three groups of open grills and extensive duct work “was a lot of work and a big investment, and the inspections were very strict, so it took a while,” Chen said, but it paid off with a total makeover of a formerly uninspired interior.
Chen is a recent graduate of St. Joseph's University Business School, and works as the manager at Sakura, which is owned by her parents. She and her husband live in Cochranville. Several of her family members work with her at Sakura, and her husband is an experienced chef who is currently the kitchen manager.
The family previously lived in Philadelphia, but had their eye on the storefront in the Shoppes at Jenners Village for a long time. “We'd been looking at this space a year before we took it over, when it was still the buffet,” she said. “We like this location because it's a very busy shopping center here. The Giant is always full, and the parking lot's always full.”
With a menu that spans hundreds of items – some of which will be a stretch for tamer palates – Chen said she frequently asks for diner feedback about the levels of spice or menu options, and adjusts accordingly. “I will ask customers about the food, and a few times they'll say it might be too spicy, but most of the time they say it's so delicious,” she said. “I'm really happy about that.”
Saying she's a fan of Sakura's three varieties of curries, Chen suggested customers new to Japanese cuisine try a cooked sushi roll first before moving on to the raw versions, such as the delicately prepared Yellowtail and Scallion Roll ($6.50), or some of Sakura's signature raw rolls, such as Sexy Lady for $13.95 (spicy tuna and salmon inside, topped with tuna, salmon, tempura flake, tobigo, spicy mayo and honey wasabi sauce) that may be so popular because of the name, Chen said, laughing. There's even a West Grove Roll for $14.95 (shrimp tempura, avocado and spicy tuna inside, wrapped with soy paper and sauce). The cooked Amazing Roll for $14.95 (shrimp tempura with cucumber inside, topped with lobster salad, mango, eel sauce, honey wasabi and mango sauce) is another favorite, Chen said.
At the upper end of the exotic menu options are dishes like raw squid or salmon roe sushi and sashimi, along with sea urchin (which has to be ordered in advance, Chen said).
There are Bento Box dinners ($20.95) with chicken, shrimp, steak, salmon, scallop or sushi, served with miso soup, house salad, shrimp and vegetable tempura, one regular roll or hand roll. Special lunch Bento Boxes are $10.95. From two pieces of hand-rolled sushi ($3.75 to $5.95) to party trays packed with a huge range of subtle tastes and textures, Sakura is ready to prepare just about any combination.
Over at the hibachi grills is where the theatrics take over, as chefs flip shrimp, meats and vegetables just a few inches from diners, making a meal into more of a show.
“We cook on the grill for you, so it's perfect for families with kids. It's entertainment and good food, all in one setting,” Chen said. Hibachi grill dinners range from vegetable ($12.95) to lobster ($29.95), with every combination in between. The hibachi meals come with mushroom soup, house salad, a shrimp appetizer, vegetables and fried rice.
Sakura has become a favorite for groups from the Jenners Pond and Ovations senior communities which are close by, Chen said. The restaurant's emphasis on authentic Japanese cuisine also encompasses some Thai and Chinese dishes that stay true to their origins without being dragged down with American-style sugary sauces. The Crab Rangoon appetizer ($4.50) is a flaky pocket of crispy wonton skin, lightly stuffed with king crabmeat, onion and cream cheese. The coconut shrimp appetizer ($8.95) is a plate of lighter-than-air coconut coating on butterflied shrimp.
“Everybody can find something here, because we offer so many varieties of food,” Chen said.
The BYOB restaurant is open every day for lunch and dinner, and offers daily specials, online ordering and takeout. Sakura Hibachi and Sushi is in the Shoppes at Jenners Village (829 W. Baltimore Pike, West Grove). Call 610-869-5588 or visit www.sakurahibachisushipa.com.
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