SakuraWhat does it say of a restaurant when, as you leave, the conversation is more ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ than ‘Masterchef’?

That’s the Sakura conudrum. The lasting impression, should you eat here, is of kitchen-implement acrobatics, dizzying egg-based aeronautical skills, theatrical pyrotechnics and, oh, something to snack on after the show.

Is that what you’re after when you opt to dine out in the city?

If it is, no doubt you’ve been suitably entertained at Sapporo – and, in the Duke Street restaurant, it’s likely you’ve been impressed with the competent sushi too – but, as Simon Cowell might say, should he be forced to sit through ten minutes’ worth of ladle-spinning antics, ‘Sorry, I’ve seen the act before’.

Actually, chances are, he’d press his buzzer before they split a live lobster and watch its limbs flail about on the sizzling teppanyaki plate. Amanda, however, she’d love it – especially the bit where the chef tosses an egg in the air, splits it with a spatula, and traces the outline of a heart on the broiling hotplate with the ejaculating yolk.

All of this, remember, is taking place while you watch. Not while you eat. No, the eating comes later. The eating is the pay-off for sitting patiently through the talent contest.

Teppanyaki cooking has always been about the show. It’s not something that adds any finesse to the finished product – nor is it something you’d find in all but the tourist honeypots of Japan.

exchange flags
He's just seen the bill...

So, SevenStreets knows that it would be churlish to moan. The show was impressive. Our Filipino Chef d’Party was like Tom Cruise in Cocktail (only, with diced up prawns instead of little glace cherries…)

But – and here’s the thing – after all that airborne manipulation, does a simple plate of Chicken teriyaki with boiled rice really add up to £16.50? Well no, it doesn’t. It was overcooked and, well, under satisyfing. The Seabass was fine but, at £18.50, complete with an egg-cup sized salad, it’s not exactly aggressively priced.

So you’re left with the rather uncomfortable fact: you came out to dine, but ended up paying for a rather expensive show.

Sadly, it’s also a show where you’re almost hoodwinked into double tipping: SevenStreets detests the practice of service charge added automatically (especially for just two diners) especially when, on the bill, a sneakily added box marked ‘Tips’ suggests you part with even more. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving…

It’s great to see a restaurant on Exchange Flags – this is one criminally underused city space – and it’s encouraging to see the al fresco decking offering the chance for an early evening drink for those with no time for all the histrionics. So top marks to Preston’s Sakura for animating this dull little square.

A meal for two, with a couple of drinks, came to just shy of £90. We left hungry. But we can see the appeal of the sleek bar area, and the sushi was excellent. All in all, a rather curious score-draw, we’d say.

But please, Sakura, ditch the ‘discretionary’ service charge-with-added-tip-box shenanigans, and get real with your pricing. Remember, Marco Pierre White will be just over the road soon. And that man doesn’t stand for any nonsense…

Main pic: Dave Evans

Exchange Flags, Liverpool
Tel: 236 2113

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