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Sakura Japanese Sushi Restaurant opens in new location

A new and improved version of Sakura Japanese Sushi Restaurant has sprouted up at 832 Crater Lake Ave. in Medford.

The owners of Sakura, which operated in 2013 next to Rumors Lounge on Riverside Avenue, teamed up with the owners of Medford's New China Restaurant to open a new sushi restaurant, a manager explained. It opened in mid-February.

The restaurant's bright interior offers a short sushi bar, plenty of booths and a few tables suitable for larger groups. 

The extensive menu includes 172 numbered items, and not every listing has a number. There are noodles in soups and stir fries, bento basics, teriyaki, tempura and all the other favorites of Americanized Japanese restaurants. The bulk of the menu is specialty sushi rolls, many of them stuffed with crispy fried things, then slathered with sauces.

If elaborate rolls are Sakura's specialty, it only seemed fair to try several. My husband and I hunted through the menu to find things that suited our preferences and offered a good variety. With so many options, many rolls seemed to feature the same ingredients, just in a slightly different order. Prices range from $3.25 for the simplest vegetarian rolls to $15.95.

In the end, we found three fun choices to serve up some of our favorites — plenty of tuna, a little salmon and snapper, a sprinkling of orange flying fish roe known as tobiko — and something new.  Each roll came out individually when it was prepared. This enabled us to devour one before the next appeared, but it did extend our leisurely Saturday lunch well beyond an hour. 

The $9.95 rainbow roll — a California roll of real crab salad topped with slivers of tuna, salmon, snapper and escolar along with avocado — maintained a nice balance between fish and rice.

The Hawaiian Vacation for $10.95 layered delicate pink slices of hamachi over a spicy tuna roll.

The $14.95 Lover roll wrapped a tempura shrimp, spicy tuna, crab salad, a dash of tobiko and cucumber in a thin layer of rice and edible, bright pink soy "paper." Slices were paired together in a heart shape, then decoratively drizzled with wasabi mayo and tangy orange-colored sauce. While my husband said the soy wrapper looked like something you might peel from bologna, it was actually melting tender. The crisp tempura and the crunch of cucumber added textural interest to each bite.

We also ordered seaweed salad and got a hearty portion for $3.95. The fine pieces were spiked with chili pepper and sesame oil, while thicker chunks carried a powerful punch of brine and iodine from the sea. 

 Sakura is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekdays and noon to 9:30 p.m. weekends. Call 541-973-2428.

— Anita Burke

The Hawaiian Vacation at Sakura is a spicy tuna roll topped with more tuna. Mail Tribune / Anita Burke