Sakura

Ramada Plaza Doha’s teppanyaki restaurant is a Doha favourite Reviews

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Any place where there’s a chance of someone’s eyebrows being singed off has to be exciting. When you enter Sakura, you know it’s going to fun – you’re tipped off the minute you swish past the Geisha-printed door hangings and head down the plastic rock path to the entrance. It’s confirmed by the open grill in the centre of the room, where chefs flip and fry meat, vegetables and seafood with giant bursts of flame (juggling eggs and other ingredients in between). Like much of the Ramada Plaza Doha, it knows what it is and is okay with that: it’s for fun, a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and isn’t so pretentious that they won’t play Japanese pop in the background.

With offerings of traditional Japanese barbecue, as well as sushi, it’s really four restaurants in one – a few traditional Western tables off to one side, the teppanyaki barbecue pit in the centre surrounded by a bar, and the sushi bar, not to mention two private rooms where you can kneel in traditional style for small gatherings. The menu seems to go on and on, with tempura, noodles and sushi bursting from the pages. The serving staff seem pretty used to people needing more than a minute to make their selections, however, and I’ve brought along a Japanophile as my dining companion: from the tips of his Digimon-styled hair to the ends of his way-too-good-with-chopsticks fingers, he knows his Japan and is more than willing to help guide me through the massive menu.

We opt for gyoza, steamed and fried dumplings, to start, and then, in a fit of experimental food review bravery, the unagi kabayaki: barbecued eel in traditional sauce. We also order some noodles, as we’ve seen steaming plates heading for other tables and they smell delicious. We try the yaki udon, a mix of noodles and beef.

Although we ask for all three dishes to be brought together as appetisers (only the dumplings came from the menu section under starters; the rest were found in various sections), they come one at a time. This is not a place for a quick bite: they’re going to make you linger, whether you want to or not.

The dumplings appear first, steamed and then quickly fried for crispness, and stuffed with a variety of vegetables and meat. They’re soft and delicate, steaming hot with a spicy kick and a spicier sauce to dip them into. Unlike most steamed dumplings, they don’t taste watery or soggy – that quick fry gives them a nice texture.

Next up are the noodles: long, thick ropes, buried in a mass of beef and vegetables and a tangy sauce. Although rather hilarious to eat with chopsticks (at least for me), this is a treasure trove of surprise: there’s more beef and veg than noodle, and the sauce is delicious without being overpowering or too salty, or so sloppy that my graceless attempts at eating are thwarted.

But the real surprise is the eel. We tear it apart with chopsticks, scraping the tender flesh from the skin. With a tangy barbecue sauce, caramelised and crunchy at the edges, it’s incredibly fresh and absolutely fantastic, as long as you keep the thought of what an eel actually looks like from your mind.

After the success of our eely experiment in round one, we opt to try the unagi rolls for mains, along with spicy salmon rolls and tamago yaki, a Japanese fried egg dish. We expect it to taste like omelette, and maybe even look like that too, so the sweet and sticky triangles, which to me taste closer to a bread pudding, are a revelation. Dipped in soy sauce and spiked with wasabi, it baffles but delights my tongue – it’s one of the weirdest things I’ve eaten, but delicious all the same.

The unagi rolls don’t disappoint either: wrapped in seaweed and soaked in more of that barbecue sauce, the eel is paired with crisp cucumber in the centre of each roll. Although a little fishy tasting, they have a sweet aftertaste that makes an exotic and authentic change to the usual California rolls.

The spicy salmon, however, is where the sushi really shines: these may be the best spicy salmon rolls in the city. With a hot pepper kick, they have a burn all of their own, and when you dip them in wasabi you’re going to clear out your sinuses for the year. The rice is just right as well; sticky without being stiff.

Full and happy, we power on to dessert, swayed by the prospect of green tea ice cream. It comes in a large cup, more than enough for two, topped with sweet beans. Although the texture is a bit gritty, the flavor is the perfect end to a very tangy meal: light and refreshing, and not too heavy.

Sakura is an old standby and an older favourite, and we can see why. We’ll be back to impress our friends with our willingness to consume eel.

The bill (for two)
2x Coca Cola QR28
1x goyza QR60
1x unagi kabayaki QR145
1x yaki udon QR75
1x unagi QR60
1x spicy salmon roll QR60
1x tamago yaki QR30
1x matcha ice cream QR40
Total (incl charges) QR498

By Time Out Doha staff
Time Out Doha,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.

Details

  • Location: Radisson Blu Hotel Doha, Rawdat Al Khail, Doha
  • Tel: 4428 1555
  • Travel: C Ring Road

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User reviews:

Posted by: Loz on 14 Apr ' 11 at 11:24

Had dinner at the sushi bar and wasnt impressed at all. The presentation was poor and every meal we ordered was very basic and bland. Was very expensive for the quality and the design of the restaurant is also tacky and out dated.

Posted by: homeygnomey on 07 Mar ' 11 at 18:00

Why don't you ever rate restaurants in Doha on a points system? Uniformly happy-clappy reviews are of little use to customers. I'd like to see this section develop a lot more bite.

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