I spent much of my late teens and early 20s slinging sushi for a living at the top sushi joints in my college town. The tips were great, but the best part for me was all the free food. Waitresses were allowed to eat any mistakes that the sushi chefs made, and it happened pretty regularly that, whoops, we'd accidentally write down the wrong order. Every shift you'd see a pack of hungry waitresses wolfing down precious little pillows of delicious nigiri and spicy tuna rolls as though we were being served our last meals.
Since then, I've eaten in just about every sushi joint I've come across, from the Pacific Rim to the Atlantic, and I've often wondered, just what is it about the sticky raw stuff that I love so much? Is it the flavor, the textures or the artfulness of sushi? Yes, yes and yes. Perhaps it's also the comfort of routine.
Generally you know what to expect with sushi. Nigiri doesn't deviate from what is expected, neither does a good tuna roll. Half the charm is in the tradition of it all. Japanese have been making sushi for nearly a thousand years, but sushi as we know it today was actually developed at the end of the Edo period (around the mid-1800s) by Hanaya Yohei. Prior to that, vinegar was added to rice and mixed with fish purely as a preservation technique, but people didn't typically eat the two together (the fermented rice was usually tossed aside). Purist sushi snobs tend to scoff at what sushi has become in America. Rolls in Japan are generally sans add-ins like cream cheese, teriyaki or chili sauces. They aren't scarfing down California Rolls like candy, or dousing their soy with giant balls of wasabi. Armed with my respect for the history of sushi and my love of simple foods, I generally tend to order traditional sushi items that allow the true flavors of the raw fish and vinegared rice to seep into my palate, although sometimes I bring along a friend in hopes she'll order something fun.
My friend and I walked into Ahi Sushi Bar in Eagle for lunch on a Tuesday with high hopes. It had been a while since I'd had sushi, and I was very anxious to get to the good stuff. The decor was nice—modern and spacious, with cool sea foam green walls and black ceilings and trim.
Our service was exceptional. The hostess was friendly and prompt; our server was very accommodating and attentive beyond belief. We ordered a pot of green tea right off the bat and, for starters cups of miso soup ($1.50), the tempura combo ($9.50) and the agedashi tofu ($6.50). For sushi, we chose the dragon roll ($12.99), and the spicy tuna roll ($5.99). For good measure, I also threw in nigiri orders of nama sake (salmon, $4.75), hamachi (yellowtail, $5) and inari pockets ($4). We had enough food for an army.
The miso soup was rich and warming, but I have to say that I was very under-wowed with the agedashi tofu and the tempura. The tempura batter was very thick and doughy and not as crisp as it should have been, and the vegetables were pretty flavorless. Overall, the tempura was disappointing. The tofu was squishy and soggy, and the large squares fell apart as we tried to eat them.
The nigiri were OK. I felt they were a bit on the bland side, but my friend thought hers were delicious. The spicy tuna roll delivered good spicy heat, and the dragon roll (which also delivered good heat) was beautiful and delicious as well. The inari was quite good, a perfectly sweet and chewy treat.
The service was great, and the restaurant was cheerful and clean, but I really felt the food was just so-so and not necessarily worth the drive out to Eagle, when there are already excellent sushi joints in Boise aplenty.
—Rachel Abrahamson loves to lay her head on a nigiri pillow and sleep on a bed of rice.