Every great piece of theatre starts with something that grabs your attention and hints at the drama to come.
So as we sat at our table at Sakura on Saturday night and the chef began his show with a wall of sizzling flame, I knew this was not going to be an average dining experience.
Sakura in Bridge Street, Northampton, is a Japanese restaurant which specialises in teppanyaki.
This is a style of presentation and cooking which involves your food being cooked to order on a griddle right in front of you.
Big deal you might say, but this is not just a case of watching a surly chef push a few steaks around a hotplate.
They make quite a show of it and, if you watch carefully, it is something of a lesson in how to best cook meat and fish.
A lesson in less is more.
I often think that when you watch someone who really knows what they’re doing in whatever field of life, work, music, art or anything else, they make it look simple.
An expert has precision, whereas the novice messes about and doesn’t know when to stop fiddling. It is as true of cooking as any other craft.
But this isn’t where the evening starts.
Before you get to the teppanyaki grill and the sizzling display of flames you have to order.
With a drink and a menu in hand, Allan and I checked out the extensive range of appetisers, makimono rolls (vegetables or seafood rolled in rice and toasted seaweed) sashimi (raw fish served with Japanese horseradish and soy sauce) and sushi (seafood on fingers of rice) and of course the teppanyaki options.
Only once we had chosen these were we shown to our seats.
The restaurant is set up with each group of seats surrounding a large griddle.
We joined the other diners there and waited for our selection to arrive.
It’s quite social to join others at the table but the set-up seems especially ideal for large groups and it looks like it would be a fun place to go with friends and family for a celebration.
We started with the hotate furai Scallops.
I love scallops and was intrigued that the menu said they came with Japanese mayonnaise. This turned out to be just, well, mayonnaise.
These were tenderly cooked in a crispy coating but while this was good it seemed a little heavy compared to the lightness of the other flavours and dishes on offer.
We tried tobiko which was delicate fish roe sashimi served on cucumber and the really delicious spicy tuna hand rolls which arrived like little ice cream cones in their own stand.
Then it was the main event, our teppanyaki tuna fillet steak.
The chef arrived with all the raw ingredients for everyone’s orders around the table and set to work.
The teppanyaki menu is fairly simple. Ginger sauce is served with seafood and mustard sauce is served with meat. Each comes with stir fried vegetables.
There is something about seeing all of this arrive in its fresh raw state that really highlights the skill of the chef.
This is all turned into delicious meals for the eight people around the griddle with deceptive simplicity and without delay.
Ours was perfectly cooked and tender and I couldn’t get enough of that sauce.
Sakura offers a different experience from many restaurants.
Alongside delicate flavours and pretty presentation you get a lesson in the art of culinary showmanship.
149-151 Bridge St,
Northampton NN1 1QF
Phone: 01604 250688
Food: Very good
Disabled access: Yes
Parking: Venue has a large car park
Total cost: £65.84
Star rating: 8/10