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You Take a Stick of Bamboo

(post, Kathleen Bauer)

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You take a stick of bamboo,
You take a stick of bamboo,
You take a stick of bamboo,
You throw it in the water...

Peter, Paul and Mary may or may not have meant this song as a political statement, but it nicely encapsulates the philosophy behind the opening of Bamboo Sushi on SE 28th. Formerly a sushi restaurant called Masu East, it was the eastside outpost of downtown's Masu owned by partners Jeff Berback and Kris Lofgren.

Lofgren became increasingly concerned about the environmental and sustainable aspects of owning a sushi restaurant, where it's hard to find out how or where the fish is caught, much less the ripples its distribution may have on other species and the environment. He decided to buy out Berback and reopen as the first seafood restaurant in the United States to be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Along with MSC, he is also partnering with other blue-chip organizations including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Blue Ocean Institute and the Green Restaurant Association. Using the guidelines established by Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium, Bamboo says it will only serve seafood listed as "best choices" or "good alternatives."

So fine, you say, but how is the food? Well, at an event to showcase the menu for the media, it was both good and a little uneven. Overall, the sushi was excellent with some unusual (and tasty) combinations that you won't find at other sushi spots in town. The usuzukuri, made with thinly sliced whitefish, jalapenos, ponzu, green onions, tobiko and sesame seeds, was a fresh take on a traditional dish, with salty and sweet flavors combining with the popping of the flying fish roe for a fun sensory experience. The hoki poke box, sushi rice pressed with red crab salad and layered with tuna, avocado, green onion, togarashi and poke sauce, also had the traditional-with-a-twist thing going on, and the grilled kobe flank with sweet potato, sauteed garlic greens with bacon, pickled mushrooms and momiji sauce was amazing.

The unevenness came when the kitchen strayed from the Japanese theme, throwing in au courant items like panko-crusted goat cheese, smoked cipollini onions and candied walnuts that begged a "Huh?" response.

But the most surprising thing was the desserts, which were actually quite good and worth ordering on their own. The adzuki filo, basically a red bean paste-filled empanada, was a crunchy, oozing delight and had a sweet potato-lime sorbet with a fence of raspberry poached pears, ideal complements to the empanada's sweetness. The chocolate "egg rolls" were chocolate pudding-filled pastry rolls that had been rolled in ginger sugar and served with candied ginger ice cream and seasonal fruit. Sensational on all counts.

Though Lofgren says they're working hard to keep their prices comparable to other spots in town, it is pricey so choosing wisely (and conservatively) might be the best policy, at least at first.

Details: Bamboo Sushi, 310 SE 28th Ave. Phone 503-232-5255.