"Eating sushi has become the new Russian roulette."Eli Saddler
Yesterday, I rounded up enough colleagues to fill a car and struck out into the Great Malaccan Wilderness of Bad Japanese Restaurants, and I do declare that we have found their king.
Welcome to the Sakura House in Taman Desa Duyung,
Now, I've found a pretty decent number of blogs which agreed that this place is certainly one of the best places to get Japanese cuisine in Melaka, and considering my previous experiences with a certain other house-type Japanese restaurant, you couldn't blame me for being as optimistic as I was. I've been hunting for a decent place in my little ol' town for ages, let me tell you, because driving up to KL every time I feel a craving for sushi simply isn't going to work out very well for me in the long run.
What I learn from Sakura House is that bloggers, by and large, have shitty tastes. And I've decided that this place needs a counter-review to all the positive sparkly rainbow lip service that this place has been unduly receiving - y'know, to prevent future foodies from coming here pregnant with unrealistic expectations.
Now, I always give credit where it's due. Dining here was indeed something different. Every room in this place was stripped down and outfitted with dark, vaguely Japanese stools and tables. The way the house was sectioned also granted some degree of privacy for every party of guests but mind you, voices travel well through the rather small house - so try to refrain from saying anything bad about the place till you're safely outside. Also, their menu is pretty helpful for people unfamiliar with Japanese food (which I assume makes up the majority of their patrons) as colour photographs of every item were displayed on it.
Green tea is both free and free flowing, but it's of the cheap, Chinese, supermarket variety. I suppose the best possible thing I can say for this place is that you are unlikely to find another Japanese restaurant that charges quite as cheaply as Sakura House. The majority of their menu items fall far beneath the RM 10.00 mark, with the absolutely priciest dishes topping off at RM 15.00.
The question is, is the fare here worth even the low, low prices they charge? The long answer is: if you're really strapped for cash and wanted to eat something that's just barely reminiscent of how Japanese food tastes like, this is most certainly the place for you. The short answer is "no, just no."
I ordered two items from their à la carte menu; chuka kurage or seasoned jellyfish, and a pair of tobiko gunkanmaki (listed simply as "topiko" in their menu). The jellyfish was chewy, a sensation very alien from the usual fresh crunch I've come to expect from the dish. For an appetiser, it's quite a turn off.
The tobiko (flying fish roe) sushi was, at best, subpar and forgettable. I blame it on the rice they use, which isn't the sticky, fluffy short-grain Japanese rice I know and love. I downed the second piece with a lot of wasabi.
Yew Kong ordered a pair of salmon sushi. He thought that they were not as fresh as he thought they should be.
Yin Yee ordered their agedashi dofu (or simply, deep fried tofu) which I thought wasn't too shabby but it's not something I particularly go for when I go out for Japanese food. I fancy that she meant to order a simple inarizushi instead, but I might be wrong. I'd definitely go for an inarizushi over this myself. That's the one with a sweet beancurd skin pocket, in case you're wondering.
Their okonomiyaki (a Japanese-style savoury pancake) is a decent enough snack dish if you don't have much in the way of taste buds. Yin Yee reckoned that the okonomiyaki at the Friends Cafe in Melaka Raya is better but it's been practically aeons since I've had one there so it's not fair for me to make that same comparison.
The absolutely biggest moan I have about Sakura House is their bento lunch set, particularly their kabayaki (grilled freshwater eel; unagi) one, which I ordered,
I can only imagine what sort of costs they had to cut to price it that low. It contained a sickening amount of what was definitely NOT Japanese short-grain rice, an iceberg lettuce salad side, and some limp gari and wakame tsukemono (ginger root and lobe leaf seaweed pickled in sweet vinegar respectively). And like any self-respecting human being, I prefer my unagi with a proper crisp exterior and a tender, savoury-sweet center - quite unlike the squishy strips I got here at Sakura House. Then again, a pair of unagi nigirizushi will set you back nearly ten bucks at Sushi King while the same will only cost you RM 3.00 in Sakura House, with no additional government of service charges to boot. They taste about the same too, in my opinion.
Possibly the least disappointing things we ordered there were their homemade black sesame and green tea ice-creams,
Kurogoma (black sesame) aisu kurimu, RM 1.50
The one I had was the black sesame one, so I shall comment on that. I think the taste itself is pretty good. The bitter black sesame fragrance wasn't too overpowering and the wispy sweetness proved to be a good counterpoint to it. Unfortunately, they have fallen into one of the most common pitfalls of making ice-cream at home; the texture was seven kinds of fucked up. Too much ice. Too little cream. The moment I dug my spoon into it, I can feel (and hear!) ice crystals crunching beneath the pressure. C'mon now! Don't scrimp on the ingredients! I'd pay twice what I paid for something a little smoother and richer.
Yin Yee thought the green tea one was tasteless.
Yin Yee thought the green tea one was tasteless.
Matcha (finely-powdered green tea) aisu kurimu, RM 1.50.
I guess the worst sin this place commits is that their stuff is actually worse than Sushi King. It's been years since I've stepped into a Sushi King outlet because I felt that they grossly overcharge for their mostly crappy and generic assembly line Japanese food. Sakura House's standards lie somewhere around the level of food court imitation Japanese food stalls (and these stalls usually have the decency to use Japanese rice, at least). And no, I'm not exaggerating at all. Right after eating there, we all simultaneously felt like going to someplace else and have a do-over lunch! True story. I honestly have never reacted that way to any eating place before.
It's probably because our expectations were simply raised far too high by all the good things we've been hearing about it on and off the web. If this review can offer a much more realistic perspective for other food-hunters looking for a bite of Nippon in Melaka, I'd feel I've accomplished what I set out to do here.
The bottom line is this: Sakura House is very affordable, true, but their food is barely worth what you pay for. It's kinda like Sushi King scaled down in terms of both taste and price. Grossly overrated, if you ask me.
For those who are interested, you can find
24, Lorong 8,
Taman Desa Duyong,
Taman Desa Duyong,
Basically, if you're coming from the old JUSCO Melaka, just drive towards the Pantai Hospital Ayer Keroh crossroads. There, turn right. Drive past JPJ Melaka on your left and till you see a BHPetrol Station on your right. Turn right at that traffic light junction into Jalan Bukit Katil. Drive down till you reach another traffic light. Here you turn left into Jalan Duyong. Next, make another left when you hit yet another traffic light. Then, turn right immediately after the row of shophouses on your right ended. Sakura House is near the end of that lane on your right.
Their coordinates, according to Google Earth, are 2°12'22.89"N, 102°18'16.07"E.
Many bloggers would advice you to call ahead to reserve a table before going to spare yourself the disappointment of not having a table when you get there (not true, because you'd still be disappointed even if you manage to get a table), but I felt a bit stupid when I arrive to find that I have reserved a table in a totally empty restaurant. Still, in their defence, it was a Monday afternoon after all. Their numbers are +606-268 1271 and +6019-687 1468. Ask for Mr John Chong.
They open from 12:30 to 2:30 pm for lunch and 6:30 to 10:30 pm for dinner.
P.S. Does anyone have any decent Japanese restaurant to recommend in Malacca aside from Wa Zen in Melaka Raya and Kokiya beside the Plaza Jaymuda?
A disappointed lover of Japanese food,
k0k s3n w4i