Sakura Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar: a blend of the glamorous and absurd 

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My own meal, snow-crab-stuffed jumbo shrimp "in a peanut wasabi sauce," was served on a plate artfully adorned with two sauces that looked like squiggles of chocolate and vanilla and tasted like anything but wasabi or peanut.

Marie summed up the night succinctly: "The appetizers were better than the dinners, and the service was inattentive, to say the least."

The following Monday, Truman reluctantly returned, joining Bob and me for a meal that turned out to be terrific. The lighting seemed softer, the mood much less chaotic. "It doesn't even seem like the same restaurant," Truman said. Bob loved the place right off. He admired all the oddball decorative touches and loved his starter of baked green mussels, plump and flavorful in a thick, creamy coating.

After perusing the assortment of rolls, sushi and sashimi on the menu, Truman and I shared a couple of first-rate special rolls: a Spice Girl concoction, made with peppered tuna and snow crab, and a Ginza roll, with salmon and fried onions. That day's featured roll was something made with fresh peaches, but Truman wouldn't go for it. "I draw the line at fresh fish and fruit," he insisted.

He did love the gyoza soup, a punchy mahogany chicken broth with plump dumplings. I was revitalized by a cup of the fragrant miso soup, which perked up my appetite so much that I made an irrational decision and ordered the Dragon and Phoenix: a clump of heavily caramelized, too-sweet General Tso's chicken on one side of the plate and a mound of cooked shrimp in a spicy tomato-based chili sauce on the other. It wasn't dreadful, by any means, but a better name might be "Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice."

Truman's Seafood Delight lived up to its name (one of those Chinese-American creations with seafood — in this case lobster, shrimp, scallops, snow peas, carrots, broccoli and squid) in a thick cornstarch-based sauce. "It's very bland," he announced, "just the way I like it."

Bob, who won't eat sushi, got another house specialty: a hot metal platter sizzling with slices of beef and sautéed scallops "in a special sauce." That special sauce tasted like traditional oyster sauce to me, but the waitress wasn't giving away any secrets. She promised to go ask the chef what was in it but never mentioned the dish again. In any event, Bob said it was wonderful and proceeded to toss aside the chopsticks and finish his meal with a fork.

Bob's dinner boasted another tiny carrot sculpture; this time it was a cute little crab. He actually played with it, as if it were a toy from a Cracker Jack box or a Happy Meal.

"Maybe if you're a good boy and clean your plate, they'll let you have a toy panda," Truman said wickedly.

Bob did clean his plate and was too full for dessert — mochi ice-cream balls or banana tempura. "I ate too much," he sighed.

So had the rest of us, perhaps discovering the true meaning of the restaurant's name. We blossomed, all right — not into cherry trees but into new waist sizes.

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