Sarubari: Ethnic (Cilantro) Fusion

The newest chain in the “Baruisuta” franchise, Sarubari is perhaps one of my favorites. Compared to Shikabari, I’d say it’s fairly close in terms of points for atmosphere; while Shikabari has a distinctly energetic and Japanese feel, Sarubari is much more calm and colorful. The food at Shikabari is better, but you can’t beat the drinks at Sarubari.

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The main reason to come here is for the cilantro (coriander). If you’re one of the haters, this may be a place for you to avoid, though.

By “ethnic,” Sarubari means it blends primarily Southeast Asian and Chinese cooking styles and ingredients for a Japanese customer base. They take pride in their spare ribs, which are fairly good. I’ve also had some of their sweet and spicy fried shrimp, which are more or less the same as what you could get in any Chinese restaurant here. Their two-toned nabe (spicy and herbal hot pot) is nice, albeit not the best I’ve ever had (but contains cilantro!). Their cilantro salad is quite literally that–a hefty heap of cilantro and some dressing. I’ve also had their sampler platter, which comprises of a bit of fried shrimp, Sichuan-style chicken, Chinese sausage, a spring roll, and Asian pickles. I’d say all these are good–not bad but not as far as fabulous.

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The cover charge they stick on you also covers a fair amount of food. They give you a plate of boiled peanuts with a hefty serving of cilantro, a small dish of octopus-based seafood in a somewhat sketchy sauce (it’s not my favorite), and a lychee at the end of your meal (or drink). I still hate cover charges, but I might as well get some variety (and cilantro) out of it, eh?

The main reason I love this place is for their drink menu. This honestly is one of the best places you could go to catch up with an old friend or have a small girls’ night out, a date, or something along those lines. They have a huge variety of mixed drinks, including my favorite to date: cilantro beer (beer with I believe a bit of cilantro syrup and a dusting of cilantro leaves–a weird combination that just works). I’ve also had their cilantro champagne cocktail, which likewise uses cilantro syrup, but it just didn’t suit me as well as the beer (a friend I went with preferred this one, however). I have also had their caipirinha, a rarity in Japan, and fairly nice as well. These 3 were part of their house cocktails at a decent price of only ¥650. They also have more standard drinks for about ¥500-550, ranging from beer to wine to simple cocktails and sake.

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The decor is low-light with multi-colored, dangling orbs, and comfortable, open-air during the warmer months, and with free blankets to cover your laps with during the colder seasons. A large mirror in the back may make it look bigger than it really is at first glance, so don’t be fooled. I’ve seen them accommodate larger parties of maybe 10-15 people, but if you would like to host something here, make sure you book it in advance. Otherwise I’d recommend going in groups of 2-4.

TL;DR – Sarubari can be summed up with 3 C’s: colorful, comfortable, cilantro.

SARU bari
〒320-0026
栃木県宇都宮市馬場通り2−3−9
Hours of operation: 5 pm – 12 am all week
http://www.localplace.jp/t100132633/
028-678-8880
0066-9713-356852 (for reservations)

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