WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The Metairie Sake Cafe was the first of the four restaurants bearing that name. In its early years it was one of the best Japanese restaurants around, with a adventurous sushi selection and artful presentations. In recent times, however, the food on both the sushi and kitchen sides were routine. The same has been true of the Elmwood and Kenner Sake Cafes, if not even more so. (The Uptown location has different owners and is much better.)
This may not be a criterion for everyone to follow, but when I see a long list of special sushi rolls in which very few are made without crab salad or crabstick, I lose interest. On every recent visit, the selection of fish was rather narrow. Uni, for example, wasn’t to be had two out of my last three times. Its kitchen, which once turned out as many exciting dishes as the sushi bar did, is now limited to the standard teriyaki, tempura, barbecue eel, and noodle dishes.
Sake Cafe opened in the late 1990s, with a beautiful dining room and an adventuresome menu–plus a few ideas from Western gourmet restaurants. Over the years branches opened in Kenner, Elmwood, and (now closed) Covington. It also spun off the large Magazine Street Sake Cafe, which is under different management now.
The Metairie restaurant is cool, dark, quiet, and suave, contrasting mightily with the mall outside (where Chili’s and Houston’s seem more in place). The Magazine Street Sake Cafe is modern and stunning, with high ceilings and striking treatments of walls and floors, mostly in unusual woods. It’s spacious, even when packed. The other three locations are handsome but in a sterile, chain-restaurant way.
The menu is the usual lengthy document, and can be viewed in the link above. Here are recommended items:
Hamachi kama (broiled yellowfin cheek)
Screamer oysters (sauteed in red pepper sauce)
Blackened (pepper seared) tuna
Vets roll (tuna, salmon, avocado, peppered yellowtail)
Sweet chili crispy fish fillet
Green curry snapper
Asian crispy chicken, sweet soy glaze
FOR BEST RESULTS
Ask the sushi chef about anything you’re thinking of ordering before you do, and look at the expression on his face.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The three Sake Cafes in the suburbs need to reach back into their glory days and restore the menu to its former goodness.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Value +1
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color
- Good for business meetings
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking