I've still never tried mochi ice cream. It's been a long-standing goal of mine to indulge in this odd-sounding Japanese treat--pulverized sticky rice filled with flavored ice cream like green tea or red bean--one that has turned into a barometer of sorts for a good sushi joint. If I still crave mochi ice cream after gorging myself on piles of raw fish, something has to be wrong. For an assortment of reasons, I never made it to dessert at Sakura Sushi on Eagle and Chinden.
Reason No. 1: the Crocodile Roll ($12.95). Other than a distaste for feather-capped adolescent boys in green tights, Captain Hook and I have never had too much in common. But when I drew my sword (chopsticks) to battle this menacing beast, I, too, realized I had bitten off more than I could chew. With a pink belly of spicy tuna, flaky crab and glistening avocado and a hardened outer shell of fried eel drizzled in sweet sauce and topped with scallion shavings, the crocodile roll was a worthy adversary. The roll's initial sweet crunch concealed a startling snap of spice lurking inside. And that was just the beginning.
Reason No. 2: Lunchtime sushi and sashimi specials. Starting at $7.50 and cresting at $13.95, Sakura's sushi and sashimi lunch specials are a ridiculously good deal. After a fair amount of deliberation, and some unamused toe-tapping by our server, my lunch date and I pointed to Sushi D ($9.50) and Sashimi B ($12.50). What we got was the equivalent of a day's catch on a fishing troller. Three fleshy slabs each of fresh tuna, salmon, white fish, yellow tail and saba; four similar-sized hunks of assorted fish beached on tiny rice islands; and a rainbow roll filled with crab and decked out with fresh tuna, salmon and avocado. Lest I forget, the lunch specials also came with miso soup and our meal's only disappointment--a soggy iceberg salad. Floating in a pool of mealy bright orange citrus dressing, the salad was less than appealing, with a hunk of squishy tomato and a couple cucumber rounds thrown on top. Still, that's not all.
Reason No. 3: Shumai dumplings ($4.50). Sakura's shrimp dumplings are pretty much the opposite of their fried, half-moon peers. To start, they're steamed and round. More like doughy, half-dollar-sized gnocchi, the dumplings were surprisingly simple and refreshing after a couple dunks in their accompanying light soy bath. Though they made an excellent amuse bouche, I have since had dreams of popping them in my mouth like bon bons in some alternate, charmed life peppered with pool boys and cocktail umbrellas.
Keeping all of this in mind, it's easy to imagine how a couple of ravenous sushi hounds--seated at a simple wood table with the plink of traditional Japanese music echoing through a salmon pink dining room--might get a little carried away with dessert plans before knowing what they were getting into. Sakura, as I now know, does not skimp on the good stuff. The portions are bountiful without treading into garish, fist-sized-roll territory.
Even with bellies stuffed with sushi, there was a final reason my lunch date and I missed out on the mochi ice cream: it was time to go. Sakura closes for lunch at 2:30 p.m. Sharp. At 2:25 p.m., the joint started shutting down the lights. Within minutes, the last of the lingering, well-heeled Eagle lunch crowd had hurriedly scarfed down the rest of their meals and shuffled out the door. After settling our reasonable tab, we exited Sakura and were hit by a wave of heat and the boring smell of stripmallville. We squealed out of the parking lot and headed back toward Boise, knowing full well the to-go box brimming with leftovers would be empty before it ever made it into the refrigerator.
--Tara Morgan is easily amused by a dumpling bouche.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Sakura Sushi here.