Sakura Offers More Than Sushi
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
Sitting at Sakura Asian Bistro’s black marble sushi bar, the tall glass of cucumber water was welcome refreshment on a warm July day. The walk from Alyeska Resort’s back parking lot was almost hot enough to break a few droplets of sweat.
Then Ben Napolitano, Director of Marketing, walked in after a bike ride. He was there to guide the Gazette through Sakura’s recent menu changes, which features more offerings that are not sushi. Throughout the summer, there will be rotating chef selections every few days for the ramen, seasonal specials and wok entrees.
This approach of changing menu items a few times a week keeps the menu fresh and interesting for line cooks and locals alike. The guys making sushi behind the bar said they enjoyed the change of techniques cooking with flames and learning new ideas. Working between the two mediums of cooked and raw keeps them engaged in different ways.
Napolitano suggested we begin the tasting with mocktails, the non-alcohol version of Sakura’s craft cocktails. I chose the Thai Cooler – Malibu, ginger beer, cilantro, lime and chili pepper. Napolitano chose the Tokyo Mule – cucumber, ginger beer and lime. Being new to mules, I was pleasantly surprised, yet a couple of shots would have pushed it over the top.
After asking the cooks behind the sushi bar what they recommended, we began with the wok entrée, which was General Tso’s Chicken. This preparation was not the typical American version with a sweetened sauce and maybe a bit of spice or more if you’re lucky.
Sakura’s version is served around an inverted bowl of rice where large chunks of perfectly cooked chicken coated with a touch of light red sauce whose color comes from mild red chilies. The chicken was crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and paired with onions, yellow peppers and fried rice noodles. These flavors were accentuated by orange peel strips, which added delicious, unexpected citrus notes.
Our next item was Beef Short Ribs with Kimchi Slaw, which is served with a cold, slightly runny, parboiled egg – a nice touch and contrast. The small ribs were so tender, marbled and rare. The marinade was slightly sweet to compliment the grilled flavor. The Kimchi Slaw was mixed with thin, shaved carrot strips and diced, raw purple cabbage. The kimchi was flavorful and tangy, but not spicy, which would be an easy option to implement as a compliment to the pairing of seared ribs and nearly raw egg.
Sakura has a number of other items on the menu to appeal to a variety of tastes and dietary considerations.
For the dessert course, Napolitano and I went with the time-honored favorite of nigiri recommended by the chefs behind the line. I switched from cucumber water to Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA, which made for a delicious pairing to the five, halved pieces we were served. Two of the pieces were king salmon, one plain and the other topped with a spicy citrus mix. The king salmon was fresh, fatty, briny and tender as it melted into my taste buds. I don’t know how else to describe it for both pieces.
The piece of deep ruby red Hawaiian Ahi was put in a 10-minute marinade, while the Yellowtail had a mix of finely diced jalapeno and olive oil on top. Each piece offered exciting flavors. Then there was the nigiri of salmon eggs topped with a quail egg and wrapped with dried seaweed. There is a delicious contrast of rawness and richness of uncooked salmon and quail eggs, punctuated by the lightly toasted, slightly salty seaweed wrapping. There are many more interesting nigiri and sushi offerings on the menu to tempt you.
As our Sakura tasting concluded, Napolitano wished to thank Pomeroy Lodging, Alyeska Resort’s new owner and three long-term employees of the resort. Jessica Hamilton started in 2015 as a server and worked her way up to Sakura’s Restaurant Manager, a position she has held for two years. Johnny Lascoe started cooking at Alyeska Resort in 2014 and transitioned to Sakura over the last couple years. He was just named head chef in summer 2019. Toby Englert has been with Alyeska since 2009, with most of his time spent as head chef of Sakura. He took a break for a short period and has returned.
Visiting Sakura was a taste bud opening experience. There are multiple options for people with dietary needs or preferences. Drop by for a quick snacks and drinks. Stick around for dinner and dessert. At Sakura, the options are yours. Don’t forget Monday night’s Draft Beer and Chef’s Choice Roll for $12.
Sakura Asian Bistro
Alyeska Resort, Girdwood
Thur.-Mon., 5-9 p.m.