Carved out cucumber slices were stuffed with white tuna, shrimp, salmon, salmon roe and sea urchin. When asked if his concoction had a name (or price), Shige Matsuzawa shrugged.
"The Boise Weekly Roll?" we suggested, getting another shrug in response.
Matsuzawa is the owner/chef of Shige Japanese Cuisine, one of Boise's most popular sushi joints for more than 20 years. The man has a wealth of knowledge on the subject.
Sushi is elegant cuisine--a balance of textures, flavors and heat. What Shige put on the plate was adventurous, with bright fish and bold flavors.
It's clear there's confidence on both sides of the bar when Matsuzawa can create a roll on the spot, and a patron will unquestioningly dig in.
When Eva Xu brings out the Las Vegas Roll, she does so with genuine excitement. She has worked at Fujiyama Japanese Restaurant for four years, and the Las Vegas is her favorite roll.
"We call it Las Vegas because there is so much going on," Xu said.
The Las Vegas features 10 pieces of sushi as wide as a rolling pin, and is stuffed with crispy tempura shrimp, spicy salmon, eel and a thin strand of asparagus. It is topped with thick fresh slices of bright orange tuna and dark red salmon, wrapped in rice and a thin strip of soy paper, speckled with sesame seeds and then drizzled with a sweet, citrus-soy yuzu eel sauce.
The size of each piece doesn't allow for it to be gracefully eaten, but thanks to the soy paper, it doesn't crumple into a heap on the plate after the first bite. It's equal parts crunchy and chewy; delicious and filling.
Xu said she likes the sushi here more than what she ate in China, her home country. She said sushi in Asia is usually just rice and fish, but Fujiyama adds sauces that bring more flavors into its fishy dishes.
At $16.95, the Las Vegas Roll is a little pricey, but Xu said after her customers try it, they often come back and order it again and again. We can understand why.
IOU Sushi III
Sushi restaurants and strip malls aren't strangers. It can cause pause to see the former housed in the latter, but hit the fast-forward button and head into IOU Sushi III, near the Fred Meyer on Federal Way.
It's the third (hence, the III) of the locally owned and family operated IOU Sushi restaurants, the first of which was opened nearly 10 years ago by Rocketchun Holden, who is from the island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia.
A number of IOU rolls pay homage to home, including the IOU III signature roll, the Nan Madol, which is the name of a city in Pohnpei known for huge cairns that Micronesian legend says were placed centuries ago by giants. IOU III's Nan Madol roll is a giant, too, made with crystal shrimp, cream cheese, seared tuna, avocado and crab, accompanied by a stack of crab and an artfully carved orange filled with plum wine all served on a wooden surfboard platter.
IOU III may be in a strip mall, but with its delightful service and equally delightful food, it would be just as at home on a resort island.
Superb Sushi isn't easy to find and for the uninitiated, "the corner of Eighth and Bannock streets in downtown Boise" is insufficient information. At those coordinates, however, you'll step into the white tile-floored Idaho Building, walk past the elevator and down a narrow flight of stairs into an atrium. Voila! There's Superb Sushi, where the rolls are as tasty as the location is hidden.
The rolls are excellent, as is Superb's steal-of-a-deal sushi/soup/salad lunch special, but it's the ?#@!* Amazing Roll--which somehow accommodates spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, red bell peppers, jalapenos, ebi shrimp, tobiko, lemon sauce, Sriracha and roe--that caught our attention.
It's spicy but without the heat of other Superb offerings like the Demon's Delight, Death or La Bomba rolls.
The aptly named Amazing Roll really is ?#@!*ing amazing.