It seems to me that ninety nine percent of visits to a Japanese restaurant in America are for sushi. What elevates a place beyond a mere sushi joint to a great restaurant is the quality of the otherJapanese dishes on the menu. For the record, I am a fan of sushi. I can put it away like a shark on a feeding frenzy. I’ve been known to consume twice as much raw fish—on little rice balls, hand rolls, inside out rolls, sashimi and strange little concoctions made by expert hands behind the bar—than anyone else at the table. I never tire of it. Usually for me it’s a tiny affair, one or two people sitting at the sushi bar, but this time I went with “the crew”—a collection of four famished (albeit hungover) adults and three spawn.
Tsuru sits in an unlikely locale in what formerly could be called Boise’s red light district. When we arrived at six o’clock, the parking lot was almost empty. For better or worse, the restaurant was ours and we selected a pair of tables, one booth for the adults and a nearby, sequestered table for the hellspawn. The booth was cozy, like a tight T-shirt one size too small; as we expanded from the food, it became a little claustrophobic.
We started with what we always start with at a Japanese restaurant—a large hot sake and a bottle of Kirin Ichiban. I offered to play sake bombs but my hungover crew was having a hard time with the sake as it was, so I let that weapon of mass destruction evaporate. For the spawn, we ordered an assortment of things we knew that they liked—tamago (egg) sushi, edamame (blanched soybeans), age (fried aged tofu) and chicken katsu, a fried chicken cutlet served with rice and an incredible sauce.
We adults went for the whole enchilada, if you’ll pardon the mixed-cuisine cliché. As we went around the table we told Shizuko, our waitress, what we each individually wanted, knowing we’d share with the rest. We kept adding to the order and noted that she wasn’t writing anything down. We’d seen disasters result from this before. If she didn’t remember everything we were screwed, but if she did, we’d be mightily impressed.
Our sushi order consisted of a standard assortment of hamachi (yellowtail) sashimi, ika (squid) sushi, ahi (tuna) sushi, a spider roll (softshell crab), a rainbow roll (yellowtail, egg, tuna, crab and salmon), a dynamite roll (spicy tuna) and tobiko (flying fish roe). But we also ordered an assortment of other dishes. My accountant was impressed with the variety of dishes not normally seen so we had to try them. We ordered Yakisoba (a noodle dish), gyoza (steamed dumplings), a tempura assortment, BBQ squid and almost as an afterthought, a B-52 (baked scallops in mayonnaise, green onions and a spicy sauce).
As each item came out, our table became more crowded. It was a race to finish one dish to clear enough space for the next one. We managed because everything tasted so good. We went through our checklist of items we’d ordered; Shizuko wasn’t missing a single thing. As we got to the end of the meal our B-52 hadn’t arrived yet. We were impressed with her memory so far, but the true test would be 100 percent accuracy. With the last pour from our large bottle of beer and the last drop of sake drained from the vessel, she showed up with the B-52. Great Japanese restaurants in Boise can be found beyond downtown.
—Bingo Barnes squeals for eel.