I had always driven past this particular street on the Victoria Island part of Lagos, Nigeria. Although blessed with certain restaurants and rendezvous locations for the working class residents of Lagos and even its visitors, this neighbourhood oozes an aura of residential exquisiteness, but don’t be carried away, the third house from the last you saw is a corporate building belonging to a particular commercial organisation or a firm. These admixture of work and home life setting alternates at random as you progress into the street.
Very chilling, you’d drive through this one lane road and pretty much get carried away at either the security man of a particular gate discharging his responsibility as his post requires, or the woman on whose head contains a bowl of bottled substances ( allegedly, these bottles contain herbal constituents that according to the sellers and their patronizers help ease men of back pain, aches and dysentery et al), taking a jab or two at the vulcaniser requesting a bottle.
But on this particular thursday night, I didn’t see any of that, but only neon lights placed at strategic locations across buildings in this region, as the occupants of these buildings had decided to give in to the frills that comes with the preparation of Christmas. Perhaps, Christmas will run through your mind, if you were with me on this precise night.
The last time I was here was when my friend was leaving for the States after her work stint in Nigeria, so I am definitely not surprised to see few changes. By the way, my friend isn’t my friend but a friend of another friend. Don’t get confused, she is a distant friend, those type that you’d meet once and just refer them to as your “Friend”.
Prior to my coming here, I had made a conscious decision just right after work to visit the particular Asian restaurant just on the same street. The thoughts of having a japanese delicacy had been lingering on in my head for a while now, but due to certain circumstances, I hadn’t had the liberty to fulfil that craving. So I made it on this day!
As I entered into the restaurant that boldly had “SAKURA” written in front of it with a bright light emphasizing this word, I was welcome with a bubbly-spirit filled atmosphere and I silently smiled. That smile came from a thought, “ I made a good decision today and I’m here to live off of it”.
My first time in Sakura, I was ready to jump on their japanese menu to order what my belly can withhold, at the same time, I was set to engage my taste buds. It took me a while to conclude where I wanted to sit, either inside of the restaurant that was tastefully decorated in the colour red of Christmas, or the surrounding area that had sets of chairs and table placed in a very mesmerizing view.
Having made a choice of the later, I sat to go through the menu given to me by a gentleman that appears to be the waiter, it didn’t take me long to order a glass of red wine and settled to make up my mind on the dish I really wanted. I made an order and I sat there, salivating for what is to come as the waiter had gone to bring my order.
Minutes later, this waiter came back and he began to serve me while I was sipping my red wine out of the transparent glass it was served in. For starters I had the Vegetable Gyoza which comprises of dumplings with vegetables; deep fried. Complimenting this dish was two side platter of signature salmon number from the resident chef (that’s what the waiter communicated to me), spicy sauce served in a tiny coffee cup and my chopsticks. My last experience with chopsticks was my visit to a chinese restaurant, Red, also located in Victoria Island, inside the prestigious Eko Hotel and Suites.
So I hadn’t lost my chopstick ethics, hence it didn’t take me minutes, I was on my third Gyoza smiling effortlessly as I savored the tasteful ingredients of this meal. The proper usage of chopsticks (which means hashi in Japan) is the most important table etiquette of Japan. After that came the giant prawn tempuras with its own signature sauce. The use of soy sauce is prevalent in Japanese cuisine, so all the while, there was a tiny glass-cup shaped container of soy sauce next to me, which was placed there by the waiter just before he started serving the meals.
While I ate of my plate like a fat six-year-old passionately devouring a piece of red-velvet cake, the remaining meals were served. This time around, it was a main course meal of chicken teppanyaki and vegetables with Udon noodles with shredded chicken and vegetable fried rice served in a donburi (this is a japanese word for bowls that rice is served in). Japanese rice always comes out sticky when cooked because it is short-grained. Most rice is sold as “hakumai” while the outer portion of the grains called nuka polished away.
Sakura really lived up to its expectations as I was enjoying every bit of my washoku, the traditional cuisine of Japan. The restaurant’s logo The Far East Just Got A Little Closer really made me think at that moment that I was actually in Asia. By the way, Sakura is a female name in Japan meaning “Cherry Blossom”. I am really not surprised.
I couldn’t finish everything on my table because I was literally full after a lot I had eaten, I humbly requested the waiter help me pack up the rest of my meal neatly as I’ll love to take it home and relive this experience.
I’ll come back here to this restaurant over and over again without hesitation and I won’t get tired of the meals. Some of you might be bothered that all through my food experience, I never made mention of the popular Sushi. Yes, it was a deliberate action because I never made any order of one, I have always never been a fan. I’d quickly recommend this place to anyone who’d love to have the japanese experience. It’s worth every of your while.
Also, if you have a big party, you could reserve the private room where the chef prepares the meals right in front of you putting up a kind of culinary display. That sounds intriguing.