August 12, 2022

A taste of Sakura, a brand new Japanese restaurant in downtown Urbana: Food & Drink: Smile Politely

Across from Crane Alley and next to Rick’s Bakery there is a new restaurant called Sakura. The addition to Downtown Urbana serves Japanese cuisine. SP Editor-in-Chief Jess Hammie and I went to visit the new restaurant and try some dishes.

Inside Sakura there is a sushi bar with the name of the restaurant on wood on a black background.  There are two large beautiful golden light fixtures.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The new restaurant is beautiful with warm woods and pretty light fixtures above.

Inside a building in downtown Urbana, there is an open safe with an intricate lock set up on the metal safe door.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The Urbana banking company owned the space and in the private dining room there is a safe. The building also housed a confectionery in the eastern bay and a hairdressing salon in the center. Sakura made a few updates to the building including new flooring, but in the kitchen they kept the original tile.

Owner and chef Bijaya Thapa worked in a Japanese restaurant in Japan for six years. He wants to bring Japanese cuisine to Urbana with this new restaurant. The chef wants to offer more than raw fish in his new restaurant, so the menu includes hot dishes as well as sushi.

The menu is small: apps, salads, entrees and sushi. Appetizers range from edamame and crispy squid to a boat avocado. The menu features classic sushi rolls, tempura rolls, nigri, and sashimi. Starters include teriyaki entrees, chicken, beef, fish and seafood, fried foods, bulgogi, bento boxes, and noodle dishes.

Inside Sakura, there is a table for four with no other tables on the gray floor.  The sun is shining through the front windows and the room is brightly lit.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

When we visited last week, the restaurant was about to open and not all tables had been set. Now the dining room is open and ready for diners.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The first thing we tried was the sushi, and our first roll was the red dragon roll. The roll was filled with shrimp, crab, cucumber, then topped with tuna, spicy mayo, and sriracha. Each piece was a big bite, but it was so delicious.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

This is the California roll which had crab salad and avocado with eel sauce and egg yolks. The roll was well wrapped and tasted good.

In a textured blue bowl, there is a serving of edamame.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The edamame appetizer was served in a bowl to share with an additional bowl for the finished pods. The edamame had a tasty pinch of salt and was served hot.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The house ramen was full of bites of seafood over ramen noodles in a spicy broth. The ramen had crab, octopus, shrimp, mussels, shumai shrimp, radishes, and green onion strips. It was a very good dish with a perfect spiciness.

On a gray-blue platter there is a bento box with salmon and vegetables, steamed rice, four pieces of a Calfornia roll, edamame, shumai shrimp and pieces of tempura.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The salmon bento box included marinated salmon with veg, steamed rice, shrimp and veg tempura, edamame, shumai shrimp, and four pieces of California roll on this fresh platter that even had a place. for the soy sauce. The salmon had a crisp edge which was amazing and a very light teriyaki sauce which was neither too salty nor too sweet and sticky. It would be a satisfying option for anyone who likes to enjoy several different bites.

On a gray and white speckled plate there is a chicken katsu with a tonkatsu sauce and a cute garnish of super thin sliced ​​purple cabbage.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The chicken katsu was so good I couldn’t stop eating it. The chicken was breaded with panko and fried until golden brown. It was sliced ​​into strips, which made it easy to dip in the sweet and tangy tonkatsu sauce.

On a black stone platter there is a sushi roll that has been fried and topped with crispy tempura with eel sauce.  Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The Vegas roll was a sight to see: a sushi roll filled with asparagus, shrimp, crab and cream cheese, then deep-fried, drizzled with eel sauce, topped with crispy tempura and assembled into a self-supporting arch. It was creamy, hot and really delicious.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The new Japanese restaurant is now open daily for lunch and dinner service in Urbana. There is street parking in front of the restaurant in addition to parking on Main Street.

Japanese cuisine Sakura
136 Main Street W
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., every day

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.