The first thing to note when walking into Raw Sushi—the sushi restaurant connected to Willowcreek Grill on Vista Avenue—is the entryway sculpture, which resembles a giant, glowing, red glass uvula suspended above a shallow bowl. It added to existing reservations about eating at a sushi restaurant in a strip mall. Even less compelling was the number of people dining in the restaurant on a Saturday night: two.
Our server was prompt and friendly, though, which helped ease our unease. The place was pumping air conditioning as though being comfortably cool had gone out of style, and a large hot sake (5.75) seemed just the thing to ward off hypothermia.
In searching for a teppanyaki dish, it's clear that the restaurant takes its name pretty seriously because the menu contained not so much as one Japanese steak offering. Happily, we found a tempura shrimp and veggie appetizer ($9.99), so we ordered the deep-fried delights and continued our entree hunt.
One of my favorite sushi dishes is ahi poke—usually a bowl of raw tuna and tobiko in a spicy marinade—but Raw's version had too many other ingredients muddying up the traditional dish. Many of the rolls had the same problem: too many extravagancies burying the main ingredients. Since that was really what we had to choose from, though, we decided to split three rolls: two specialty and one traditional.
Moments later our hot, crunchy sea dwellers arrived accompanied by a variety of vegetables served in their finest form—fried. The appetizer was great. Raw's tempura had a perfect, slightly flaky but still crispy consistency, and the plum dipping sauce made for a refreshing accent. Hope was restored and my tastebuds were content.
A general trend seems to be making its way through sushi joints in Boise. The sushi is all too darn fancy. Cream cheese, wasabi whipped cream, "special sauce" ... whatever happened to fish and rice? If the quality of the basic ingredients is good, a tuna roll shouldn't need creamy fixings and little fried squid tentacles to make it palatable. And in the case of Raw's Nautilus Roll ($11.99), these added expenses weren't doing the fish any favors. The calamari kept slipping off the avocado layered across the top, so we just picked them off and ate them separately, wishing we had just ordered the calamari appetizer instead of the roll, which was bland. The delicate flavor of the ahi and avocado just got lost in the sunflower mayonnaise sauce which, when combined with the rice, made for a creamy, hard-to-swallow glob. I glanced at my date and saw the same choked expression on his face. We both swallowed hard and reached for the Eel Roll ($8.49), which was a satisfyingly simple, less expensive reprieve from the Nautilus and the Samurai ($11.99). Replace the ahi and mayo of the Nautilus with smoked salmon and cream cheese and you get the Samurai, also disappointing.
When we had both eaten our last piece of Eel Roll, we stared at the two remaining rolls, each with only two pieces missing. A few sections of the Nautilus laid naked and green where I had snatched a sliver of avocado from the top, but my uvula trembled at the thought of another bite. Our server cheerily asked if we wanted a box for our leftovers, and I made some excuse about sushi not keeping well in the fridge.
—Anna Demetriades has never said, "Come up and sashimi some time."