& lt;span class= "dropcap " & J & lt;/span & unior Solis wants OISHII to be the best sushi restaurant in Spokane. The cozy space is & uuml;ber-hip: minimalist black metal and red upholstered seating, red walls, burnished steel table tops, and oversized paintings of geisha-inspired faces in high-gloss candy colors. Oishii's custom lighting -- best seen at night -- includes recessed, rice-papered light panels under the sushi bar and ceiling-mounted, cybertronic lighting undulating from black-backed boxes like distant stars.
But Oishii isn't in Spokane; it's in Sandpoint.
"It's a bit of a drive," says Solis, grinning. At 25, he has lots to smile about. Like many chefs, Solis started as a dishwasher, debating a career in plastic surgery or cooking. After attending the Art Institute of Seattle's culinary program, Solis eventually returned to Spokane to work at Raw and Okan & eacute;. Six months ago, Solis teamed up with Sandpoint restaurateur Claudia Dick (Trinity Caf & eacute;, Trinity at Willow Bay, 219 Lounge) to open last month in a space adjoining Trinity's First Avenue frontage.
Oishii -- Japanese for delicious -- was a hit. Solis delivers flavors that, like his d & eacute;cor, balance innovation with tradition. Nigiri (served on a pillow of rice), sashimi (sliced raw fish) and maki (rolls encased in seaweed) are accompanied by nearly three dozen "inside out" rolls (rice on the outside). Bonzai ($12 for 6 pieces), for example, is albacore tuna, cream cheese, scallions and avocodo tempura-fried and topped with chopped jalape & ntilde;o. The Point ($12) pairs salmon, smoked salmon and Granny Smith apples with tempura crispiness and a huckleberry teriyaki glaze.
"Food is edible art," says Solis, who is drawn to Japanese food for its flavor, healthfulness and aesthetic potential. Emphasizing freshness, Solis says his fish is flown daily from Hawaii no more than 15 hours from when it swam in the Pacific. With rolls ranging from $6 to $13, the cost impact of freshness is only marginally shared by the consumer; Oishii is quite reasonable.
In addition to sushi, Oishii specializes in saketinis, infused sake martini drinks like the Cherry Bomb: cherry syrup, dry sake, Redbull energy drink and cherry garnish. Purists can order "plain" sake, as well as wine or beer, to accompany their meals. -- CARRIE SCOZZARO
DINING Community Caf & eacute;
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & veryone appreciates a neighborhood gathering spot -- a place where you're always comfortable, where the staff knows you and where friends and neighbors meet. Now a northwest Spokane neighborhood has such an eatery -- the recently opened SHAN'S GRILL, a restaurant and bar with a view.
"I've lived in this neighborhood 12 years," says Shannon Powell, owner and general manager of Shan's Grill. "I want to cater to our community. Getting to know my customers is huge to me."
The contemporary, earth-toned dining room sports views of nearby Pacific Park and offers large-screen TV viewing of local and national sporting events. Powell says every seat in the place has a view -- including the separate bar. "We'll open our patio in May with seating for 36 and sunset views," Powell says.
Lunch and dinner at Shan's feature dishes Powell knows customers like. After all, she's been in the restaurant business for 25 years in Spokane -- many of them as general manager of the Wolf Lodge Inn in Spokane. Appetizers include bacon-wrapped prawns, tomato bruschetta and steamed clams with amber beer, tomato, spinach and bacon. Salads range from Caesar to mixed greens with goat cheese, toasted almonds and fruit. Roasted potato soup with bacon and cheddar is offered daily, as well as a freshly made soup du jour.
Chef Branden Moreau brings his experience from Portland's Western Culinary Institute to creative menu items, ranging from $4 to $22. Angus beef burgers, and sandwiches of chicken curry salad, tilapia (fish) or a portabella are a few of the offerings. Shan's even has a battered and grilled Monte Cristo and a spicy fireman's sandwich with grilled steak and fried egg.
"Our rib-eye Angus steak cuts like butter, and it's served with Jack Daniels butter," Powell says. Pork chops with pineapple-rum sauce, a half oven-roasted chicken and grilled salmon are other entr & eacute;es, as well as pasta offerings.
Beginning this weekend, breakfast will also be served -- from French toast to chicken-fried steak and eggs.
"I want people to come here and feel like they're home," Powell says.
-- SUSAN HAMILTON
Shan's Grill, 8801 N. Indian Trail Rd., suite B, is open Mon-Fri 3-10 pm, Sat 8 am-11 pm, Sun 8 am-9 pm. Call 467-4267.