A new neighbourhood restaurant serving home comforts on a Salford estate
I’ve been to a few restaurants and cafes lately that warrant the tag of home comforts or comfort food. The phrase came up on a recent visit to Yes Lah and I’ve seen it assigned to places like Café San Juan and Paratha Hut. Small, homely cafes and restaurants that are personal spaces without the highly choreographed social media presence that is now an unavoidable part of the hospitality business model.
We miss Hong Kong food but we also enjoy Japanese food
New opening, Sakura in Salford (unrelated to the restaurant of the same name in Cheetham Hill) is one of those places.
A beacon of homely cooking set in an unassuming Salford estate. The corner unit is on a row of shops underneath flats. There’s a Rocky Balboa-themed takeaway, a little convenience store, a laundrette, a barber and, Sakura, a little café style restaurant that serves Hong Kong dishes and Japanese-inspired dishes.
A little home from home for people from Hong Kong and a joy to visit for everyone else.
Steaming bowls and solo bliss
Sakura has been open a little over two months and already it gets packed out over lunchtime and evening sittings. When me and a colleague arrive for our visit on a Thursday lunch the small room is full. The only two spots left are a tight squeeze on the bench in the window.
The menu, as Betty who runs Sakura tells me on a later visit, is a mixture of Hong Kong comfort food and Japanese-style teriyaki rice bowls. Betty, who is from Hong Kong and has two restaurants there, describes her food as delicate. Slowly made and not rushed.
“This restaurant is not only Hong Kong style, but also some Japanese style food. We miss Hong Kong food but we also enjoy Japanese food.” Betty says.
On the first visit to Sakura we order a beef brisket, tripe and tendon soup with noodles and a bowl of deep-fried pork cutlet with scrambled egg over rice. The pork cutlet comes out sizzling, indulgent in size, delightfully crispy with soft velvety ribbons of loose scrambled egg alongside. A generous mound of rice sits below.
We nibble on a crispy bun, akin to a barmcake, slathered with sweet condensed milk and butter. A little snack whilst we wait for mains.
There appears to be two ways to eat at Sakura. Either with friends, chatting, or solo in a sort of meditative state, staring out of the front window amid slurp and scoop. Staring out at the metronomic morse code of the zebra crossing beacons over the road. I see a few people in this meditative state at Sakura and I wonder what they’re thinking about. They look relaxed. I’m jealous.
Delicate food, tripe and not missing out the stages
I revisit a week later for dinner with a friend. We arrive past seven in the hope that it’s quieter and we can chat with someone from the restaurant. There’s that same mixture of solo diners in rice and noodle bliss and a few groups finishing up. It’s warm inside, the seats are comfortable and there’s no music. The music is not missed.
Maybe it’s a faux pas in this line of work to order the same thing but I refuse to leave this building without having that pork cutlet and the brisket and tripe again. Both are as comforting as the first time I ate them. We order ma po tofu and chilli for something different.
There’s plenty to choose from on the menu. Wok-fried dishes, hot pot for one, rice bowls, kimchi in soup, Hong Kong style wok-fried specials and curry too.
The beef brisket, tripe and tendon soup is my favourite. You can tell that broth has been laboured over. It’s rich and glorious. There’s a tangled web of noodles in there and so much brisket. The meat falls apart, the tripe is gloriously chewy, exploding soup into your mouth with every bite and the tendon is slightly gelatinous and buttery but with bite left.
“This beef brisket is the most popular. Either with rice or noodles. It’s rare to have this style of beef brisket noodles in Manchester. There’s some seafood in the sauce, there’s a very rich base of beef and it takes a long time. Everything in there is very soft and tasty.” Betty says.
“Normally when you might go out to a restaurant, they prepare the food very fast. But here we want to make it more delicate. We make the kimchi ourselves. The beef brisket takes a long time to make, there are many steps involved. The chefs here often prepare the food until midnight.”
Betty recommends the roast chicken with homemade sauce for a future visit. It’s her favourite and she tells us it’s totally different from the teriyaki chicken, “different steps.”
Full from generous servings, we portion up the remains to go and head off into the night. For now, Sakura is something of a hidden gem. I doubt that will be the case for much longer.
Sakura, 8 Salisbury House, St Stephen Street, Salford M3 6AX
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