The Sarku Japan booth in the Mall of Georgia is very minimal, and in that, ironically, it is perhaps more Japanese than the oversized metroplex izakaya that so many foodies love. The classic walkway eatery has no place in America, except in our food halls, and even if the Sarku product is modest, it gives us a small taste of the “walk by and grab it” scene.
Are there things to complain about? Sure. I’d have much preferred a small grill oriented izakaya, where I could grab something to drink and a toasty octopus tendril at the same time, but this is food court cuisine, where teryaki chicken morphs into “bourbon” chicken, and everything exists to feed a crowd of thousands as fast as possible. Seldom is the food high end, but it is very often original, as the competition for mouths in a food hall is ruthless.
I’m also on record as saying the obsession with sushi in the States is peculiarly American. Americans do things with sushi that its creators never dreamed of, and obsess over it endlessly, as if it’s the beginning and end of Japanese cuisine. It’s akin to judging all Mexican cuisine by the quality of the “Speedy with beans” that they serve. That said, let’s get down to the business of looking closer at Sarku.
Food, when you get it, is ice cold. That long display case in which they show their goods is actually a refrigerator, and given how cold my seaweed salad was, in full working order. One guy mans the cash register, 2-3 others man the case, and build foods for their audience. There aren’t many nigiri or sashimi choices, perhaps 5 or 6, and they are pretty straightforward choices at that (tilapia, tuna, salmon, etc).
Since I’m a diabetic, I got sashimi rather than sushi. Sarku serves their fish with slices of pickled ginger and a bit of sliced vegetable. I enjoyed the fish, delivered ice cold, and felt it was better than what I could get at, say, Publix, and perhaps not to the quality of what I could get at Waraku or Haru Ichiban. The fish wasn’t as firm, I thought, perhaps not as good a cut.
In summary: It’s clean, neat, accessible, geared to fast delivery in a food court environment. Better than grocer’s sushi, but doesn’t reach the quality of a full service Japanese restaurant, much less a high end sushi specialty shop. Recommended for what it is.
Sarku Japan Sushi Bar
3333 Buford Drive #K106
Buford, GA 30519