Superb Sushi Downtown

Special to the Idaho StatesmanMay 19, 2006 

— Sushi has been widely accepted in America ever since the great sushi heyday of the early '90s, when most West Coast cities had sushi joints on nearly every street corner.

It seems like Boise just got bit by the sushi bug, with lots of Japanese concepts popping up around town in the past few years.

Brett and Lori Nunez have been rolling fish (under the name of Superb Sushi) for three years at Ridley's Market (formerly Crane Creek Market) on Bogus Basin Road.

In October, they opened another location, Superb Sushi Downtown, in the basement of the historic Idaho Building.

The motto at this subterranean sushi joint is "Ultimate, Untraditional Sushi," which relates to the experimental maki rolls and sashimi dishes the restaurant serves.

Anything goes at Superb Sushi Downtown, meaning that jalapeno, cream cheese and lemon sauce are commonplace on the menu.

But don't worry: You'll find plenty of traditional sushi ingredients, like tobiko, black sesame seeds and wasabi galore.

Superb Sushi Downtown is casual, to say the least.

At night, diners just grab a table in the dining room — an atrium-like expanse — and get waited on by the young servers.

The dining room is a hodgepodge of outdoor furniture (the comfy kind with sunbrellas) and tall iron tables that line the windows facing the bright courtyard. The place looks more like a patio than a sushi restaurant. But who needs all those smiling Buddhas and ornate Oriental screens anyway?

After ordering cold bottles of Sapporo ($2.50), we committed to a Sashimi Sunflower ($8.99/small), prefaced with customary bowls of cloudy miso soup pocked with tofu, seaweed and scallion.

The Sashimi Sunflower was just that, a raw fish flower built with outstretched strips of wild king salmon, ahi and hamachi (young yellowtail), set off by a center of crunchy and sweet seaweed salad and dots of tobiko (flying fish roe). The colorful plate also had dollops of wasabi and pickled ginger for embellishment.

The fish didn't appear to be ultra high-grade, but for this price, we were not complaining.

A couple of maki rolls then fit the bill.

The Superb Shrimp Tempura Roll ($9.99) was an inside-out maki roll with sticky rice rolled tightly around nori, crunchy shrimp, scallion, cream cheese, tobiko and dark kabayaki sauce. The roll came zigzagged with creamy lemon sauce and flecked with black sesame seeds.

We weren't as impressed with the California Roll ($5.99), but that's the case at most sushi places.

An inside-out roll (rice on the outside) came with a standard filling of avocado and king crabmeat, sprinkled with sesame seeds. We should have upgraded to the Superb California Roll, which has those ingredients plus Japanese mayonnaise, cucumber and tobiko.

All gripes aside, we left happy as sumo wrestlers at a springtime sushi feed.

During the day, diners order at the front counter and seat themselves in the dining room.

One recent lunch, we started with two inari pockets ($1.29 each) and crunchy pods of sea- salt-sprinkled soy beans ($2.99/edamame).

The inari pockets were sweet pouches of fried tofu stuffed with sticky rice, carrot, red bell pepper, scallion, toasted coconut shreds, drizzled with kabayaki sauce.

Next came a Dragon's Breath ($6.99), a plump, inside-out maki roll packed with ahi and cucumber, and then dusted with tobiko, pulverized red pepper and traces of crystallized ginger.

This signature roll came with a small pile of noodle salad, garnished with tangerine wedges and crispy Japanese rice crackers.

We also tagged on a Sake Maki ($7.99), a traditional (nori on the outside) maki roll with broiled salmon, jalapeno, avocado, cream cheese, red bell pepper, scallion and cucumber.

Superb Sushi Downtown is not trying to be a hip, urban sushi place — it just strives to offer friendly service and affordable sushi in a timely manner.

Mission accomplished.

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

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