The minutia matters when it comes to Treasure Valley sushi eateries. Most source their frozen fish from the same few purveyors, and even the accoutrements are variations on a theme: ghostly piles of decorative daikon (short shreds or long curlies), mounds of pickled ginger (plain or stained pink), cloudy miso (gradations of light or dark with cubes of tofu and wisps of seaweed) and that mealy, bright orange dressing ladled over shards of iceberg (eerily similar from place to place).
Sakana Japanese Sushi Bar and Grill doesn't break this mold. The Meridian restaurant's second location took over the dated Din Fung Buffet at 925 Vista Ave. in Boise. Though I wasn't drawn to dine at the building's previous occupant, Sakana's burnt orange ceilings, golden yellow walls and cream booths edged with brown have a throwback feel that likely would've been at home there. But Sakana has also added a few modern touches--a line of beaded curtains with purple orbs separates the dark wood bar from the double row of Vista Village-facing booths with crystal light fixtures.
The inexpensive lunchtime sashimi bento box ($8.99) came with three slabs of salmon (great), three hunks each of ahi and red snapper (passable), shredded daikon (short), ginger (plain), a bowl of miso (delightfully light and salty) and an iceberg salad (sad and small, with half a tomato, a couple cuke coins, a single sliver of red cabbage and some shreds of dry carrot topped with that inescapable dressing). A mound of lightly sticky rice, three lonely cubes of melon and a loosely assembled California roll with stringy Krab and fresh avocado rounded out the meal.
My opinion was equally split on a side order of pork gyoza and shrimp dumplings ($4.50), both pre-made. While the pork potstickers glistened with a light oily sheen and paired well with a slightly vinegary soy dip, the circular dumplings enclosed a too-small sliver of shrimp atop a too-pungent mound of onions and cabbage.
A happy hour stop at Sakana was more memorable, if only because the bill was small and the spread was ample. An order of salmon and tuna mixed poke ($5) was fantastic, with huge cubes of shimmering tuna and salmon in a spicy glaze, while the spicy tuna roll was low-grade standard ($3.50) and a couple side orders of sushi--yellowtail ($5) and super white tuna ($4.50)--were satisfying with a wasabi kick. It also didn't hurt that all beers and house wine are $2.50 during happy hour, Saturday-Thursday, 2-5:30 p.m.
If you want to score some relatively inexpensive sushi in a pleasant atmosphere, Sakana isn't a bad choice. If you want a spot that nails all of the minutiae, head somewhere else.