Sakana Oriental Restaurant
Sakana Oriental
835 Mantua Pike
West Deptford NJ, 08096

Review by Food Writer, Joe Colanero of Gloucester Times

Dragon Roll Chinese and Japanese dishes are just the beginning at Sakana Oriental Restaurant.

By the name, Sakana Oriental, you have something is different. The site, a ping pong of earlier Asian restaurants north of the Southwood Shopping Center on Route 45, now sports an Asian restaurant. Sakana (Japanese for fish) aims to anchor there in West Deptford by managing its teams of chefs to stir up its best representations of Chinese menu. Stacked with booths and linen coverings, Sakana arrives to invite us to fine dinning.

If pleasantly tuxed waitress Amy Wu offers you a menu, notice that its handsome Oriental artwork unfolds to dishes intended to tempt you, and they do. The selections, pictures range from the everyone-likes Lemon Chicken ($10.95) to the succulent Steamed Whole Fish ($14.95) presented from head to tail on the plate for the more sophisticated diner.

Catching the sushi bar out of corner of your eye, the menu lists choices of sushi and sashimi, which is sliced raw fish served with wasabi, ginger root and soy sauce.

At the sushi bar, Howard Tze, creates an impressive array of deftly prepared appetizers. Having been trained for nearly eight years at Lai Lai Restaurant in Pennsylvania, Tze showed us his hand at Dragon Roll, one of the most popular customer items. Slices of raw eel and caviar draped sushi rice roll livened with eyes, ears and tail, served enticingly on Japanese ceramic.

Sakana Oriental Restaurant

Paul Ching, co-owner, revealed his Oriental approach to food when he explained how one should appreciate the full potential of a Dragon Roll. Closing his eyes and gesturing with his hands, he said, “Mix the wasabi and soy sauce in the dipping dish as you wish, and with the chopsticks, take a potion of the Dragon Roll, place it in your mouth, pause for a moment and feel its texture before you even consider its bright, alive flavor impact.” Seems contrary to downing a raw Delaware Bay oyster, doesn’t it?

If you react to that description of sushi savvy that’s best reserved for someone else, Paul Ching hasn’t forgotten you, either. He has placed on the menu a soon to be anointed as an adopted American dish, General Tso’s Chicken ($10.95). “The secret to making it the best is to apply the exact amount of coating and control the heat during cooking,” Ching told me.

Paul Ching, who himself has sharpened many a knife in Hong Kong, and his team demonstrate their extensive training background that verily supports their array of other Asian offerings. Chef Andy Chen worked his way to Sakana by way of Fugi in Cinnaminson, the Lotus Inn in West Chester and the highly rated Elena Wu’s Restaurant in Voorhees. Here, Chen worked to place a number of Japanese items on their menu, his favorite being Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna ($14.95). In deference to the American palate, he prepares his Chicken Teriyaki ($12.95) with white breast meat.

Searching the menu elsewhere, you will discover a shoe size for all: a Malaysian Curry Chicken dish ($8.25) and Thai Shrimp ($11.95).

But Andy Chen and his Partner, Chef Mike Huang, wisely admit to widening their dessert choices to including American, French and Italian classics. I think I deserve more than a few points for discipline in declining a sample of Tiramisu made with lady fingers soaked with coffee liqueur, mascarpone mousse, chocolate genosie and Grand Marnier ($4.95).

To experience Sakana to its fullest, call ahead to reserve their large, round table with a lazy Susan in the center in their banquet room. Bring your family and friends to delighting sampling all the goodies while the lazy Susan stops with yet another temptation.

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