Review: Bamboo Sushi

Bamboo Sushi Portland - Sushi

Bamboo Sushi

Bamboo Sushi is not your ordinary sushi restaurant. Not only is the fish much better than average, but they have garnered national praise for being the first certified, sustainable sushi restaurant in the world. They take great pains to follow the endangered species guidelines on the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute “avoid” lists. Bamboo Sushi partnered with the Nature Conservancy to fund The Berry Islands Marine Preserve in the Bahamas, with a $250,000 donation. The restaurant has such a devoted following, it laid waste to the competition, placing number one in our 2011 and 2012 Reader Survey for Best Sushi; no other restaurant came close.

This commitment is lovely, but a restaurant is only as good as the food. While you browse the menu, pick a sake from the large selection, or one of the interesting cocktails. As starters, try the char-grilled shishito peppers, tossed with miso butter, bacon and bonito flakes; the ingredients will push most foodie’s buttons. I’m a particular fan of Portlands’ OTA tofu, and at Bamboo Sushi it’s served marinated and fried, with shiitake mushrooms and bonito flakes. For something more unusual, don’t miss the charcuterie plate with a daily selection of five different items: picture fish paté, tuna blood sausage, a creamy uni “crème brûlée”, wild king salmon inlaid with shrimp, and preserved fish. Five different tempuras are on the menu, all appropriately crisp and grease free, blanketed with a light breading; the soft shell crab a particular standout.

Bamboo Sushi Portland

A signature dish, the black cod with smoked soy and roasted garlic glaze is very popular; delicate and brash at the same time. I love the “house on fire” mackerel, grilled, drizzled in red chili oil, topped with pickled mustard caviar, and seasoned with lemon charcoal and wood smoke. The fish is very fresh as it must be, with just a slight oil taste. Wow; close your eyes and you’ll be in Japan.

I’ve never experienced anything other than good sushi here, but some stand above the fray. A special of black tobiko flying fish roe with quail egg is beautiful, the tiny eggs adding a wonderful creaminess.  The line-caught maguro tuna from the Philippines is smooth and fresh, melting on the tongue. Uni sea urchin reminds me of my childhood, bare feet after school, eating them raw at the tide pools in Palos Verdes. The signature rolls are little art pieces, examples of how different textures work together: crisp, creamy and rich, forming an impression in one bite.

Bamboo Sushi Portland-2

There are many people who have never experienced sushi; a good amount of them because of a reluctance to try something new. However, I always talk the seafood phobic into accompanying me to dinner. I lure them with the promise of  an excellent burger – half-a-pound on brioche with white cheddar, caramelized onions and onion rings, or a dish of smoked and seared brisket with a sweet/sour tamarind soy reduction . Who knows, before the meal is over, they may be picking food off of your plate.

This is a remarkable restaurant. Owner Kristofor Lofgren strives for and achieves the goal of sustainability in ever facet of the operation, yet still produces what is arguably the best sushi in Portland. The menu could be pared down a bit, and not every dish lives up to its promise, but it is easy to put together an excellent meal.

2 locations:

  • Address: 310 S.E. 28th Ave., Portland, OR 97214  Map
  • Phone: (503) 232-5255
  • Hours: Daily 4:30–10pm
  • Address: 836 NW 23rd Ave., Portland, OR 97210  Map
  • Phone: (971) 229-1925
  • Hours: nightly 4–10 pm
  • Happy Hour: Mon – Fri 4:30 – 6:00pm
  • Reservation Policy: Reservations are accepted for parties of 7 or more Sunday – Thursday in the dining room
  • Noise Level: moderate to expensive depending on how hungry you are
  • Price: moderate
  • Social: n/a

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