Superb Sushi 

In the spring of 2003, when Boise's blossoming food scene was still just a shrub loaded with colorful little buds, Boise Weekly sent me to cover the highly anticipated grand opening of the upscale Crane Creek Market. It was there at the store's in-house sushi counter that I had my first taste of Superb Sushi by Brett Nunez, who was busy handing out samples of his Dragon's Eye roll as fast as he could prep and cut them. The unconventional maki, filled with salmon, scallion and lemon zest and topped with a refreshing lemon sauce, was such a delightful bloom of color during Boise's budding food era. Today, three and a half years later, the Crane Creek Market is now Ridley's Market, and Superb Sushi has grown its operation by opening a second location in a cool little underground restaurant off downtown Boise's trendy 8th Street.

There are two entrances into the eatery. The easiest is off Bannock Street, just behind Satchell's Grill. The more complicated starts on 8th Street between Thomas Hammer Coffee and Cold Stone Creamery, winds through hallways and stairways and ends in a surprising indoor courtyard bathed in a summery aqua blue hue. Potted palms, a wall of windows and a high glass ceiling create an openness that makes you feel as if you have discovered a tropical hideout in the middle of the downtown bustle. Reflective space heaters keep the room toasty warm while glass-topped patio tables and opened umbrellas complete the casual, breezy feeling.

On the menu, you'll find three styles of poke, seven kinds of fish for nigiri and 25 sushi rolls. Common fillings such as cucumber, avocado, tobiko and wasabi are supplemented by ingredients such as jalapeno and habanero peppers, fresh lemon zest, crystallized ginger and lemon sauce, which all boost the traditional Japanese flavors to a level that is refreshingly unconventional. A smart selection of beer, wine and sake round out the offerings.

I visited Superb Sushi, where we've dined a couple of times since it opened in September 2005, on a recent Friday night for dinner with my husband, Dan, and our two teenage sons. Our server greeted us promptly and returned with a 22-ounce "oil can" of Sapporo ($4.75), which Dan and I shared, while our sons struggled to open a Japanese soft drink called Ramune ($1.99) that tastes like bubbly citrus candy. The deal with the Ramune is there's a marble in the top of the bottle and you have to use the bottle cap to push the marble into the neck of the bottle before the soda will flow out. Leave it to the Japanese to dream up fun gimmicks like this to occupy the offspring (and parents, too).

After we warmed our bellies with bowls of hot miso soup ($2.25), our waiter delivered what we came for. Number One Son devoured his Whales Tale roll ($9.99) before I could snag a slice. Rolled inside-out, it was filled with yellowtail, scallions and sesame oil then topped with avocado--and deemed "good." Number Two Son took a little more time to finish his Firecracker roll ($7.99). Made with salmon, avocado, wasabi and jalapeno pepper and topped with lemon sauce and cayenne pepper, our spicy-loving son declared it "superb." Dan and I shared the Chef's Platter for Two ($34.99), comprised of four different rolls, four pieces of nigiri and sesame-heavy poke made with both ahi and salmon. One of the rolls was the lemony Dragon's Eye roll that I always enjoy so much, while another equally addictive one was the Dragon's Breath roll made with tuna, cucumber and crystallized ginger. The nigiri included good, tangy yellowtail, fresh-tasting ahi and salmon, but the shrimp offering looked limp and deflated and was the only misstep of our meal. In the colorful blossoming shrub that is Boise's food scene today, Superb Sushi has emerged as a casual respite for tasty sushi at reasonable prices. We'll be back.

--Jennifer Hernandez performed the blossoming shrub roll in tumbling class.

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