Dinner Out at Sakura Sushi & Roll in Montebello

The place is called Sakura Sushi & Roll, but by far my favorite dish, I tried there was a salad. The seared tuna salad comes with organic spring mix, a pile of fresh shredded daikon radish, topped by long slices of black pepper encrusted rare tuna. The dressing is a house made sesame with an extra drizzle of sesame oil to add to the umami.

Also good, but hard to eat with chopsticks, is the summer roll. This might look like a fat vietnamese style goi cuon, but instead, the rice paper is wrapped around shrimp, avocado, cucumber, spring mix and two kinds of surimi or imitation crab. It's served with a border splash of chili sweet sauce.

Despite the girth of the rolls, this is a light, rice-less roll. Owner Annie Le told me, this is a popular dish for those trying to diet.

Looking for something with a bit more punch; the garlic edamame has a secret sauce that coats the soy beans with fresh sautéed garlic chips and a sweet and salty sauce. For those who are adept with chopsticks, you can keep your hands clean. I wound up needing an extra napkin to clean up after scraping those beans out of the tasty, saucy pods.

Another unique dish is the Delicious Shrimp. The shrimp and vegetables are cooked in separate pans to keep the shrimp from over cooking. There is that slightly sweet, soy sauce again, but what makes this dish unique is the presentation. Chef Andy Won quick fries and forms a spinach tortilla into a bowl. He also takes thin strands of sweet potato and quick fries them into a nest of crispiness. The vegetables go into the tortilla bowl first, then the shrimp and on top of all that, the crispy tangle of sweet potato. I wasn't sure how to attack. Annie just broke off a piece of the tortilla and put a little layer of vegetables, the crispy potato and a shrimp; lift to your mouth and bite. It's three kinds of crispy with the veggies, tortilla and potato, the shrimp is tender and tasty. But I still don't get it.

I was also quite unsure what to make of one of their popular sushi rolls. The Jumbo Volcano Roll is nori wrapped around a stick of cream cheese, salmon and avocado. It's inside out with the rice on the outside, then battered and deep fried. Chef Brandon Le slices the roll and plates. He piles atop the slices spicy surimi and handfuls of crispy panko bread crumbs. All that is topped with a spicy mayo and eel sauce, Look full disclosure. I am yonsei; fourth generation Japanese American. Nothing about this fun dish reminds me of sushi. But Sakura's clientele loves it. It's spicy, it's fried, it has cream cheese. Sushi snobs will tell you that, maki rolls are meant to be eaten in one bite; with the volcano roll.

So, I tried a bit of the spicy surimi covered in panko and then took a bite of the fried roll. All in all, this dish covers all the taste bases, if you will. Sweet with eel sauce, spicy with the surimi and mayo, creamy and tangy from the cream cheese, then the crunch from the panko and batter. Not my cuppa as they say in England. But perhaps, I'm not really the typical patron.

The three year old restaurant serves a mostly Latino population and the menu has changed to be more appealing. It was Juan Sanjuan of Gloria's in Walnut Park, who recommended the restaurant on our Facebook page. Everyone we interviewed in the place was Latino and they all had rave reviews. What was noted often was the quantity of the food and the affordable prices.

I get it, premium sushi is pricy. Sakura offers 30 pieces of sashimi, beautifully presented on mounds of shredded daikon in the kind of boat shaped tray that is typical in higher priced Japanese restaurants. But here, this sashimi platter costs $36. If you've watched "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" you have to know, you're not going to get that kind high grade tuna or albacore. But you will get fish delivered fresh daily. You'll also get some lesser known fish, served sashimi style like the lightly seared escolar and beautifully sliced tilapia. And, trust me, whenI'm craving sashimi, I go to my local fast Japanese place, knowing full well, the fish will be fresh and tasty, but less premium and more importantly for my budget… less expensive.

Sakura Sushi & Roll

1228 S. Greenwood Ave.


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