Sakura Sushi & Grill

The main road running east to west across the south side of Joplin is officially known by a number: 32nd Street. But, with the influx of popular sushi restaurants dotted along this thoroughfare, it might as well be called Sushi Street.

 

Anchored on the east side is Ichiban Sushi, with Han the Sushi Man located about midway, and the newest addition, Sakura Sushi & Grill, serving the west end.

 

For a city in the Ozarks, that’s pretty amazing.

 

sakura facade

Today I’m writing about the newest kid on Sushi Street: Sakura Sushi & Grill. Located in a strip mall just west of the Freeman Hospital complex, Sakura’s regular patrons include medical professionals and residents from the surrounding neighborhoods.

 

sakura bar

Inside, there’s a dining area with tables and booths, as well as a bar area (one of the waitresses here makes the best Lemon Drop Martini I’ve ever sipped).

 

I recently met my friend Carrie here for lunch, and ordered some hot tea.

 

sakura tea

For those of you looking for something stronger, Sakura serves sake, too (you can even order it cold, which sounds like an interesting drink on a hot summer day).

 

For an appetizer, we ordered edamame, a dish made from steamed young soybeans still in their pods.

 

sakura edamame

Sprinkled with salt, edamame becomes a highly addictive treat. Plus, it’s kind fun to pop the beans out of the pods, too.

 

I noticed that several people in the restaurant had ordered bento boxes for lunch. Here’s an example of one from Sakura’s menu.

 

sakura bento box

 

These include a choice of one or two sushi rolls or stir-fried dishes, miso soup, a house salad, steamed rice, and edamame. It’s a lot a food for a reasonable price. Sakura offers dinner bento boxes, as well.

 

For my entree, I ordered the Green Goddess roll, which is a baked sushi roll that marries flavors from Japan and Mexico.

 

sakura green goddess

It’s filled with tempura shrimp, then topped with guacamole and tempura flakes. It sounds strange, but it’s delicious!

 

Carrie, who is vegan, ordered the Vegetable Roll for her entrée. It was made with fresh cucumbers, avocados, and crunchy Japanese pickles.

 

sakura veggie roll

Look at that pretty roll.

 

At Sakura, there’s a variety of sushi rolls, either fresh or baked, to choose from. And for you purists out there who want to ditch the seaweed and other accompaniments that come in sushi rolls, there are many sashimi and nigiri options. Sashimi consists solely of pieces of fish or seafood, and nigiri is the same except the pieces of fish or seafood are served atop small mounds of rice.

 

But you don’t have to be a seafood lover to enjoy a meal at Sakura. Landlubbers can try entrees like Orange Chicken, BBQ Short Ribs, or Beef Teriyaki (Tofu Teriyaki, if you’re a vegetarian). And if you don’t have time to dine in at Sakura, you can order your food to go.

 

sakura logo

 

You’ll find first-rate, flavorful food and attentive service at Sakura. With the addition of this restaurant – the third quality sushi spot on this road – people might just start believing that 32nd Street (aka Sushi Street) leads directly to the ocean.

 

Sakura Sushi and Grill is located at 1802 W. 32nd Street, Suite K. Click here to follow Sakura on Facebook.

 

M&M Bistro

You know the feeling you get when the underdog that you’ve been rooting for wins the race? That’s the same feeling I get when I step inside M&M’s Bistro’s new – and more spacious – locale on Main Street in downtown Joplin.

 

The original restaurant was opened in April 2013 by the Alvandi family: Mehrdad, his wife Minoo (the chef), and their son Sia. Over the years, the Alvandis have built a loyal following, and that’s no small feat for a family-run business. Local mom-and-pop restaurants are typically underdogs in the fickle restaurant industry where they’re competing with national chains.

 

But with high-quality Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, along with pleasant service, M&M Bistro has proven it has staying power in the Joplin market.

 

My husband Travis and I often come to M&M Bistro for lunch during the week, but our most recent visit was the first time we’d been to the restaurant’s new location.

 

mm bistro back

We had two options for parking: along Main Street in front of the building, or in the public lot at the rear of the building. We chose the lot.

 

mm bistro interior

Inside, the first thing I noticed was the festive twinkle lights and cozy atmosphere. Mehrdad, the owner, greeted us with a soft smile and led us to our table. On our way there, we passed the restaurant’s bar area.

 

mm bistro bar

Yes, M&M Bistro now has a liquor license!

 

Since it was a chilly day out, we ordered hot tea. The teapot and cup were presented on a dainty scalloped white platter with gold trim.

 

mm bistro teapot and cup

The teacup itself was served in a copper and glass cup, and was unlike anything I’d seen before.

 

mm bistro tea

We ordered dolmades as an appetizer: tender grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, toasted pine nuts, and spices. The creamy Florentine sauce served on top contrasted nicely with the subtle tang of the grape leaves.

 

mm bistro dolmades

My entree came with a Mediterranean salad, and it was one of the freshest and crispiest salads I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. The vegetables tasted like they’d just been plucked from the garden – even though it was the middle of winter.

 

mm bistro salad

The salad was crowned with a hearty scoop of crunchy tabbouleh, a bulgur salad mixed with parsley, mint, onion, tomatoes, and seasoned with salt, olive oil, and lemon juice.

 

Travis ordered the Mediterranean platter as his entree.

 

mm bistro gyro platter

The base of the platter included everything that was in my salad, plus slices of tender and savory gyro meat, cool and refreshing Tzatziki sauce, homemade hummus, warm pieces of pita, and sliced, seasoned potatoes.

 

The Mediterranean platter is what I usually order, but I thought I’d try something new in honor of M&M Bistro’s new location. I took Mehrdad’s suggestion and ordered spanakopita. I’ve always thought of this traditional Greek dish as a finger food; the kinds I’ve bought in the freezer section at the grocery store are always presented as such, but the one I had at M&M Bistro was different.

 

mm bistro spanikopita

Here, the phyllo dough pastry was stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, and cheese, then topped with a creamy Florentine sauce. Hearty and dense, it was definitely fork food.

 

While dessert was the furthest thing from my mind, I’d heard that the baklava here was outstanding and I wanted to give it a try, so I ordered it to go. Honestly, I hadn’t had baklava in years and, from what I remembered, I thought it was just okay.

 

mm bistro baklava

Well, that was before I tasted M&M Bistro’s version. The combination of mixed nuts, brown sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon made it taste somewhat like a snickerdoodle cookie but with a different texture, thanks to layers of flaky phyllo dough. I guess I’ll be ordering this every time I go now.

 

Another thing that I wanted to mention about M&M Bistro was the use of this symbol throughout the restaurant.

 

mm bistro faravahar

It reads: “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds. There is but one path in the world – the path of honesty.”

 

This symbol also appears in the logo for M&M Bistro, so I asked Mehrdad about its meaning. He explained that it was the Faravahar figure, a common symbol in his country of origin: Iran. And what does the M&M in the logo stand for? Mehrdad and Minoo.

 

Knowing the meaning behind M&M Bistro’s logo adds yet another layer of appreciation for this family-run business. Not only do the Alvandis offer a taste of their country through their food, but they proudly display symbols of their culture throughout the restaurant, offering those of us who have never been to their homeland a glimpse into the world outside of the Ozarks.

 

Authenticity, pleasant service, fresh food, and pride in family, culture, and business are the qualities that make the Alvandi’s M&M Bistro one of the top dogs in the Joplin dining scene.

 

M&M Bistro is located at 612 S. Main Street. Click here to visit its website, and click here to follow M&M Bistro on Facebook.

 

To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.