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Sakura’s sushi is off the beaten path in Waltham

Black pearl roll.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff
Joe and Jim Zhu, the unrelated owners of Sakura. Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Sakura restaurant, which opened in December, has slipped quietly onto the dining scene in downtown Waltham. Just around the corner from Moody Street’s restaurant row, you are likely to pass right by it on foot. The absence of a working website isn’t helping the cause. All this is a shame, because Sakura is serving impeccably fresh, skillfully sliced sushi and sashimi at very reasonable prices.

A steadily ringing phone suggests the takeout business is brisk, but on multiple visits we eat in a nearly empty dining room. Just as we’re seated, the waitress swoops in with complimentary veggie sticks and a sweet ginger dipping sauce, and she’s ready to take drink orders. There’s no liquor license, but hot tea or water will be refilled relentlessly. Service starts out as sweetly attentive, but we are reduced to nervous giggling when the waitress leans into our conversation (nothing to do with the restaurant) and starts asking concerned questions.

At least you won’t feel ignored. And once the food hits the table, you won’t notice the hovering. Simple sashimi might be the best way to gauge a sushi chef. We order tuna ($4.95) and salmon ($4.75), each with three generous slices of sparkling fish. Spicy salmon wonton chips ($8.25) arrive with 6 golden wontons, pulled straight from the fryer and each topped with a mound of chopped raw salmon coated in spicy mayo. Add a tangle of the daikon string garnish and you’ve got an addictive dish of spicy, cool, crunchy, and fresh, all in one bite.

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Crazy maki ($7.95) has crisp shrimp tempura with avocado and cucumber topped with tobiko caviar and drizzled with spicy mayo and eel sauce. The “special rolls” are more ornate (and slightly more expensive). Black pearl roll ($11.95) is a version of a spicy, crispy tuna roll, with fresh jalapeno and black caviar. Fire maki ($13.95) starts with sweet lobster salad and is topped with imitation crab mixed with spicy mayo and tobiko. It’s very rich, and we wish the crab were the real thing (it’s billed as crab, while other menu items with the fake stuff are labeled as kanikami, the Japanese word), but it is still satisfying.

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Unfortunately, we have to pick and choose around the menu to avoid the frequent inclusion of “white tuna,” otherwise known as escolar. The controversial fish is known to cause stomach upset, but it’s still popular at many sushi spots. The low-carb set will enjoy The Frog Prince Roll ($9.95), a riceless maki filled with yellow-tail (or choose tuna, or salmon), kani, avocado, tobiko, daikon, and kaiware (radish sprouts) wrapped up in thinly sliced cucumber.

Cooked food is mixed. A vegetable tempura appetizer ($6.25) is light and perfectly delicious. But our order from the Sakura teppanyaki special section of the menu is disappointing. We choose the Samurai special ($14.95). The steak, ordered medium-rare, arrives well-done, and both that and the accompanying chicken are underseasoned and topped with a bland teriyaki-type sauce on a bed of sauteed bell peppers and onions. The meal comes with steamed broccoli and rice, as well as good miso soup and a fine house salad. Our check arrives with carved up clementines, a sweet touch to end the meal.

This is the first restaurant for China-born owners Jim Zhu and Joe Zhu (not related), though both worked at various Japanese restaurants over the past decade.

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On the large menu there are more items, from Japanese noodle soups to deep-fried pork don buri, but we’ll probably just saddle up to the sushi bar for well-prepared fresh fish, at better prices than you’ll find in Boston.

Crazy maki roll.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Catherine Smart can be reached at cathjsmart@gmail.com.