Taste

Special to The Idaho StatesmanOctober 28, 2005 

— The sushi craze has come and gone in the big cities, but it seems to have just struck Boise in the last few years.

Better late than never.

Taste in Hyde Park isn't a sushi joint in a conventional sense — it's more of a wine bar that serves sushi, cut from sustainable seafood.

Diners can choose from an incredibly large beer and wine list, supplemented by ample sake and champagne choices.

Taste opened in 2004 as a wine bar, a place where small plates and artisan cheeses were the order of the day. In June it turned solely to sushi.

Proprietor Erik McLaughlin, who also owns Richard's next door, has assembled a team of sushi chefs at Taste, including former Ichiban chef Ray Taing.

The creamy blue paintjob still remains. So do the brushed aluminum tables and stylish wood chairs. It's hip without being pretentious.

The menu covers the basics, with lots of maki rolls, hand rolls and nigiri.

One evening, we started with bowls of mildly smoky miso soup ($2.95) pocked with scallion and diced tofu. It cleaned our palates for the upcoming smoked squid salad and wakame seaweed salad, which was married together ($6.95) upon our server's recommendation.

Tender strands of lightly smoked squid sat atop braised seaweed and organic field greens, splashed with sweet and spicy dressing.

We then tried two hand rolls ($6.95 each). The Firecracker ($6.95) was a crispy nori cone packed with sambal-kicked ahi tuna and yellowtail, cucumber, scallion and fragrant sticky rice, drizzled with spicy Sriracha sauce.

We weren't as excited by the $5.95 hand roll stuffed with crispy Taku River salmon skin, daikon sprouts, cucumber and earthy twigs of burdock root. We kicked the spice level up on this roll with pungent crumbles of wasabi and pickled ginger.

Frosty glasses of Kirin ($3.75/Japanese brew) paired well with both rolls.

The ebi donburi ($8.95) was a large bowl with lightly blanched, chilled shrimp and avocado slices (splashed with lemon juice) on a bed of sticky rice and chopped scallion. This is a sure bet for non-sushi eaters — nothing exciting but everything tasted fresh.

We finished the evening with an order of tataki ($12.95), a bowl lined with pepper-encrusted, seared ahi topped with slivers of mango. A pool of gingery ponzu sauce helped to drench the tuna slices.

We left as full as sumo wrestlers. Not quite as big, though.

A few nights later, we sat in the patio section (it may be awhile before this happens again) and watched the Hyde Park hustle.

Right off we ordered a Fiery Foothill maki roll ($11.95), two pieces of wild salmon nigiri ($3.95/sake) and a Harrison roll ($8.95), a maki roll made with tuna, tender shrimp, sticky rice, cucumber, asparagus and tiny flying fish roe (tobiko) that snapped in our mouths like good caviar.

The Fiery Foothill was a serpentine-looking roll with piquant ahi, sweet king crab and sticky rice, covered with thin avocado slices and a zigzag of pepper-kicked aioli.

These rolls were so filling that we really didn't care when our friendly server failed to bring the salmon nigiri. Actually, the prospect of Richard's dessert list made us forget it entirely; yes, diners at Taste can order from the Richard's menu, too.

We opted for the tarte Tatin ($7), an upside-down apple tart (baked in a cast-iron pan) with caramelized edges and a liberal scoop of cinnamon ice cream.

It appears that McLaughlin has another hit on his hands. This stylish little sushi spot should be around for a while, keeping Hyde Park that much hipper.

James Patrick Kelly is The Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at jpkfood@earthlink.net.

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