Chef Shige Matsuzawa has dominated the downtown Boise sushi scene for years. And despite a questionable expansion into French-infused red carpet fine dining at the Shige compound on Eighth and Idaho streets, the Shige brand has remained unwaveringly strong.
But when I heard Shige had opened a teriyaki venture in Meridian--a short distance from Yokozuna Teriyaki, no less--I thought Napoleon had finally fixed his steely gaze on Russia. Boy, was I wrong.
Shige Teriyaki's Meridian strip-mall location--chilling in viceville next to a liquor store, a check-cashing joint and a Tobacco Connection--is nothing to write home about. The small spot is unadorned, with an open counter and a few wobbly backed booths propped up against large, floor-to-ceiling windows. In one corner, a TV sputters Top 40 pop jams next to a wall decorated with a yearbook of glossy food photos.
Staples like pork tonkatsu ($6.25), chicken yakisoba ($5.50) and beef teriyaki ($5) flash meaty smiles next to geeky menu outsiders like barbecue squid ($8.50).
A steaming bowl of miso soup ($1.50) was waiting on my table before I had the chance to shed my coat and settle into the booth. Dark and full-bodied with wisps of chewy seaweed and circular green onion slivers, the soup was simple but stellar. With each spoonful, a swirl of fermented miso sediment bloomed in the dark broth, like sandy footsteps in a shallow lake, before settling back into its distinct layers.
Seconds later, the counter guy slid onto the table a Poke Bowl ($8.50), which consisted of a pile of green onion grass clippings and shaved dark seaweed perched on a mound of raw tuna and fluffy rice. The hunks of tuna glistened with so much shiny roe, it looked like they'd been rolled in oily orange glitter. The warmth of the rice played up the cool blush of raw tuna, and the sharp bite of onion contrasted the Bubble Wrap snaps of salty roe. It was both fresh and filling.
As I swallowed my last sated bites and laid my chopsticks down to rest, I noticed the place had kicked into a lunchtime rush. Area businessmen clustered around laptops and fussed with smartphones as a growing line snaked to the door. I boxed up the rest of my meal and ceeded my table to the hungry hoardes.
The Shige empire, it appears, is as strong as ever.