When I first moved to Boise, a friend let me in on the Shige secret. After guiding me up an outdoor escalator and into a dated, carpeted sushi joint, he encouraged me to keep an open mind. Shige, he promised, makes some of the best sushi in town. Boy, was he right. And while there's something charming about a semi-hidden sushi spot housed in an odd downtown mall complex, that charm doesn't extend to Shige's newest nextdoor venture: a fine-dining steak and seafood restaurant.
Fine dining is as much about killer food as it is about swank atmosphere. Shige's Red Carpet Fine Dining, sadly, has neither. The outdoor terrace seating area is partially fenced in by a wooden wall plastered with stick-on vinyl bamboo decals. Periodically, while you sip chilled sake and rest your elbows on pressed white linen tablecloths, drunk dudes from Piper Pub pound past in flip flops and shouts echo through the tiled mall corridor. Inside is a sake martini lounge. Light slants in through the pulled blinds illuminating a long bar, a few cocktail tables and a modern red couch. A few outside tables overlooking Eighth Street make for prime people-watching, but come summer, it's too sweltering to enjoy them.
The Shige sushi menu, which features page after laminated page of app, specialty roll, sashimi and nigiri options, is a foil to the Shige fine dining menu--two short pages in a wood-bound binder. The menu melds the art of Japanese cuisine with the "culinary flavors and style of the French cuisine" and boasts an array of appetizers--Kobe beef carpaccio, foie gras ala Japonais, seared ahi sashimi--and a small selection of steak and seafood entrees.
Dodging the sun on a particularly melty evening, my dinner date and I settled into a shaded terrace table and got to work on a chilled 16-oz. carafe of filtered sparkling sake ($8.95). An order of Kumamoto oysters ($13, half dozen) should have been the ideal summertime treat, but they were so loaded with roe, pickled onions and sauce that the bivalves' sea-freshness was masked. The raw scallops ($12), on the other hand, were prepared simply--a small pile of ghost-white spheres in a mustard vinaigrette served over lemon slices instead of the menu's stated taro chips. But the freshness of the scallops combined with the crunch of the Red Carpet salad ($8)--mixed greens with cherry tomatoes and fried goat cheese balls in a sweet miso vinaigrette--couldn't stand up to the gut bomb that was our main entree.
The pan-seared Chilean Sea Bass ($23) was layered between fried round crisps and swimming in a buttery puddle with shiitakes, asparagus and a mound of green onion-laden rice. The fatty, deep-water white fish begged for a lighter, more citrusy sauce to cut its intensity. In calorie-overload, my date and I eventually threw in the towel. After we settled up our tab and made our way sleepily down the escalators, we agreed that we'll take the original, well-worn carpeted Shige over its red carpet cousin any day.
--Tara Morgan sings "roe, roe, roe your boat" to her sushi.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Shige's Red Carpet Fine Dining.