The joy of Japanese

Sakura in Japanese means ‘cherry blossom,’ but in Israel it means one of the longest-standing and most delightful sushi places.

Sakura Japanese restaurant_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sakura Japanese restaurant_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Walk into Sakura in Jerusalem most days of the week, and you are bound to see Japanese tourists having lunch or dinner. For me that’s a good sign but not surprising.
Sakura opened in Jerusalem 18 years ago as an answer to a need. The owner, Boaz Zairi, who first embarked on his culinary journey at a small sushi bar in Japan, worked with his Japanese-born wife as guides for Japanese tourists in Israel (she still is). They were asked to help find boxed lunch solutions. Zairi became an expert, Sakura evolved from tourist and Japan-affiliated clientele to a favorite with locals, and today both branches – one in Tel Aviv and one in Jerusalem – are considered among the best Japanese restaurants in Israel.
We went to Sakura Tel Aviv on a mid-week evening. This is a very informal place. Sushi lovers go there for the excellent food and relaxed atmosphere. On the evening we were there, most of the tables were occupied by young people. Some had just finished shopping at the nearby Dizengoff Center, and some seemed to have come from work.
After a drink of choya, (NIS 20), the sweet Japanese plum wine that comes in a small flask with the plum inside, we ordered two salads to munch on while debating which fish to have in our sushi. The ada mama (soy bean) salad (NIS 15) is a perfect munching food, and the Hijiki seaweed salad with almonds and Ponzu sauce was delicious.
We were also offered a taste of a carpaccio dish made from white fish with a sweet-sour wasabi dressing. To my taste, it was more of a seviche than carpaccio and not quite Japanese but very tasty nonetheless.

After much deliberation, we decided to stick with what we love – sushi and sashimi. There are many other dishes on the menu, including noodle dishes, tempura and others, but we chose a sushi-sashimi combination for two (NIS 129), which was very fresh, tasty, satisfying and pretty to look at. With our meal, we drank Japanese green tea and hot sake (NIS 24).
Sakura has been a leader among Japanese restaurants in Israel and has been rated as the best Japanese restaurants many times. It’s not the newest kid on the block, but it is definitely still a great sushi haven.
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.
Sakura, Not kosher. 79 King George St. Tel Avi (03) 525-0486, 31 Jaffa Road, Jerusalem (02) 625-3464