It's a bit surprising this far from an ocean, but Boiseans seem to love sushi. Maybe we like it because it's exotic, or because it's usually presented beautifully, or because it's healthy or we like living dangerously by eating raw fish. Maybe it's all of the above. Whatever the reason, we're crazy about our sushi.
Ask any sushi-lover around and he or she will have a definite favorite restaurant in which to dine on tuna, yellowtail, eel, octopus or krab with a "K." Sushi restaurants abound, as do restaurants that aren't necessarily dedicated to sushi but have one or two raw fish options on the menu. But there's also good sushi available in your local grocery store (and in one gas station). So, we decided to bring sushi out of the restaurant and into the lunchroom, or in our case, into the conference room. Our esteemed judges were four Boise Weekly sushi lovers: Shea Andersen, yours truly Amy Atkins, Juliana McLenna and Leila Ramella. Here's what we thought:
Albertson's--1650 W. State St.
Cost: $3.99 (66 cents per piece).
Made by: Okami brand sushi out of Sun Valley, California.
Type: shrimp and wasabi roll (fully cooked), six pieces; assorted California roll sampler (fully cooked), six pieces. (Albertson's also offers Sushi on the Spot brand California rolls for $4.99.)
The shrimp and wasabi roll was a greenish color--not very enticing. There was one vote for the spicy flavor, but also one against it. The naysayer said it had a "funny" aftertaste.
The California roll sampler was just OK. It was sweeter than we like our sushi to be and some of the pieces were filled with a krab and mayonnaise mixture instead of whole pieces of krab.
Boise Co-Op--888 W. Fort St.
Cost: $5.74 (96 cents per piece).
Made by: Owner/chef Scott Clapsadle of Honor Roll Sushi
Type: Southside Philly roll, six pieces; Rainforest Caterpillar roll, six pieces.
The Philly roll included smoked salmon, cucumber, green onion and cream cheese. The presentation of the Philly roll was nice, but the texture was too soft and it tasted a little fishy.
The Rainforest roll included Chilean rock crab, yellowfin tuna, freshwater eel, roasted red peppers and avocado, and we really liked this one. We loved the tobiko around the outside of the Rainforest roll and thought that, overall, it was quite "tasty."
Fred Meyer--5230 W. Franklin Rd.
Cost: $4.95; $4.55 (41 cents per piece; 38 cents per piece respectively).
Made by: Southern Tsunami (for AFC Corp., a Rancho Dominguez, California, company) locally owned and operated sushi bar. It's prepared at the Fred Meyer on Federal Way and then brought to the Franklin Road location every day.
Type: spicy roll, 12 pieces; California roll, 12 pieces.
We are now all big fans of Fred Meyer sushi. The spicy roll offered tuna, shrimp and salmon, and both it and the California roll had nice color, great texture and were deemed "tasty" by the panel. "That's definitely one I'd go back for!" cheered a panelist.
Jay mart (Tesoro's gas station)--1522 W. State St.
Cost: $4.59 (57 cents per piece).
Made by: Boise-based Sushi on the Spot.
Type: California roll, eight pieces (the only option available).
This roll is made with a krab and mayonnaise mixture surrounded by a lot of rice--too much rice according to one panelist. It was a little bland, but we got a kick out of buying sushi at a gas station, and the guy working behind the counter was one of the friendliest people we've probably ever met.
Ridley's Market--2590 N. Bogus Basin Rd.
Cost: $6.99 (87 cents per piece).
Made by: Boise-based Superb Sushi.
Type: Dragon's Breath roll, eight pieces; Crane Creek roll, eight pieces.
The Dragon's Breath is an ahi roll with cucumber and a tobiko sauce (we guess sriracha sauce), while the Crane Creek is broiled salmon, avocado and a lemon sauce. One panelist said, "Wow!" Another said, "This is some of the best sushi I've ever eaten," and another couldn't say anything because she was trying to fit as many pieces as she could into her mouth before anyone stopped her. These rolls looked appetizing, they smelled like sushi should (not too fishy) and they tasted delicious. We knew they were freshly made, because when we stopped by at around 11 a.m., they didn't have any out yet (they open at 11:30 a.m.).
Winco--110 W. Myrtle St.
Cost: $2.98 (50 cents per piece).
Made by: Okami brand sushi out of Sun Valley, California.
Type: spicy Philly roll, six pieces; California roll/shrimp combo, six pieces.
Both of these rolls were, unfortunately, a bust. The California roll was a little mushy and too sweet for our tastes, and the shrimp, which was served as nigiri (a piece of fish on the top of a formed clump of rice), was too rubbery.
The spicy Philly roll, made with smoked salmon and cream cheese, was-- to put it gently--our least favorite. One panelist said, "It tastes like a tuna fish sandwich." Another said, "The price reflects the quality," and another one couldn't actually get it down and had to spit it out into a napkin. With so much better sushi available around here, the Okami company is going to have to really step up their game if they want to compete.
We loved Ridley's sushi, we really liked the sushi from the Co-Op and Fred Meyer, but we weren't so keen on the offeriings from Albertsons, Jay Mart or Winco. If you haven't ever tried sushi and you're too embarrassed to walk into a local sushi joint, grocery store sushi is the perfect way to try it for the first time in the safety and comfort of your own home, or office. If you've eaten sushi hundreds of times and your lack of discretionary funds prevents you from going out to eat it as often as you'd like, grocery store sushi is a way to quell your craving without paying a fortune. Or, if you just want a quick, healthy alternative to fast food, but don't have time for a sit-down meal at noon, snag a box and take it back to the office. You can bet we sushi lovers here at BW will be scheming to find an excuse to do this again soon.