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Bad Sushi experience, Sakura Chelmsford

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So my husband and I had sushi at Sakura a few months ago. It didn't blow us away but we weren't revolted either. We decided to give it a second try. Bad idea.

The stereo was blaring hideous Muzak. As it segued from an overwrought piano version of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" to a bombastic take on Phantom of the Opera, I began to have second thoughts about our relaxing Friday night out. The place smelled bad, like old fish, rancid deep frying oil and smoke. None of these three odors are normally associated with a good sushi experience. The air was filled with little flies, hopefully from the garden cut flowers on the surrounding tables but still not cool.

To the food. We had a yummy Philadelphia roll. But the California roll was nasty, filled with a brown gooey old avocado that I would have chucked and imitation crab. It clearly said on the menu crab meat, not imitation crab or crab stick. I was ticked, since most restaurants admit on the menus if the crab is not real. The tempura sweet potato roll was greasy and the Chelmsford maki had the yuckiest mouth feel ever - filled with slimy bits and mashed fish. I was able to eat and enjoy the Philadelphia roll but couldn't try more than one bite of the other rolls.

I know this is Chelmsford. We are landlocked. But this was downright unappealing. We won't be back.

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  1. I've never seen a California roll mention what type of crab they use. I always assume it will be a crab stick, unless they say otherwise.

    I used to eat there all the time (lived in Chelmsford for 5 yrs) and found it pretty good and the service was always outstanding. Much better than the options in Nashua.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Frank Enbean

      Interesting. We moved from a place not known for its seafood - Saskatchewan, but always, always the menu would designate crab versus crabstick. I guess I thought that moving to a place better known for seafood that the quality of my sushi experience would go up. But it hasn't. Saskatchewan sushi cost more, but the food was much better.

      1. re: SunGlow

        Is eating a couple rolls really the best way to judge a place? I'd think to really get a good idea of their product, there'd have to be some nigiri and sashimi involved.

        Just sayin'.

    2. I certainly agree about the muzak but I have to disagree about the sushi - at least you should try the sashimi. Not only is it better than Yama (Andover) and far better than Lemontree (Burlington) if you eat at the sushi bar during lunch you may have the opportunity to watch them cut up a whole fish. I simply can't trust a place more than when I watch them cut up the fish in front of me.

      4 Replies
      1. re: robhagopianchow

        i think that Yama is Top Notch for the area and now that i got the Itame to ditch the menu and go with it I've been Very Pleased.

        1. re: ScubaSteve

          If you haven't tried Sushi Island in Wakefield center you should. It is by far the most authentic and high quality sushi north of Boston. The owner/chef (itamai-san in Japanese) was trained in Tokyo. In fact , at times, he even imports some seasonal specialties directly from the fish market in Tokyo. On Friday and Saturday nights they also have a small jazz trio that adds to atmosphere.

          1. re: RoyRon

            we've been Many times and while we're big fans of the sushi, the band, not so much.

        2. re: robhagopianchow

          I work in Andover and eat at Yama about once a week. I've been to Sakura a couple of times and I've had great experiences there - no bad smells, fine execution on all the rolls I've ordered.

          I think the sashimi and nigiri is better at Sakura than at Yama, but Yama has a better selection of rolls - some of which are out of this world.

          Next up Sushi Island!

        3. I really love Sakura and it's right in my town. I have to admit that on numerous occasions I have seen the sushi chef's pick from a pile of presliced fish for the nigiri.

          I am no expert, but I know this is a "no no" as it affects the quality of the fish. How big of a deal is it though? The fish still tastes great, but I still dislike that practice.

          5 Replies
          1. re: mjg0725

            I'm shocked at your report. We've been eating at Sakura since the week it opened. Never, never had a bad meal. We have eaten sushi all over and always end up back there for a dependable meal. We do do a lot of nigiri and special sushi items too. I know Alan personally from spending so much time there. I'm sure he would have corrected anything that you brought to his attention. He takes the freshness of his fish very seriously. I'm going to mention it next time I see him. We'll continue to frequent Sakura

            1. re: Fishegg

              I assume you meant to reply to the OP Sunglow? I have never experienced anything like that here.

              I did not say I dislike the food, I said that I dislike the sushi chef's practice of "preslicing" the fish.

              1. re: mjg0725

                My bad, my reply was solely to the initial posting by Sunglow.

                1. re: Fishegg

                  If you do talk to him, ask him what he thinks about his sushi chef preslicing his fish.

                  1. re: mjg0725

                    If by presliced, you mean the individual pieces you put on the rice for the sushi itself... I've actually sat there long enough to see the entire fish being cut and put away/put into the sushi bar. He actually cuts away from a bigger chunk of the fish for all of his sushi... you might have seen the last bit of the chunk and thought it was presliced. As for this post in general, I've been to Sakura for the past 6 years... never have I ever had an experience that's less than excellent. For the "odor"you mentioned.. It most likely was sushi being cooked (Like salmon skin maki emits a delicious scent when being made) or Unagi.

          2. HHmmm, I too am very surprised at this report. We love Sakura's and go to many sushi places. Wonderful service and always very fresh. I'll be honest, we don't ever order cali rolls - we do more sushimi and sushi then rolls these days - always very fresh. They'll sometimes tell us when we're walking in, what just came in. I've always loved the ambiance, are we sure we talking about the same place.

            1. The OP posted this same review back in October. Weird.