Eat Raw Fish, Restore An Ocean

True to form, if I put Japanese and Sushi on the roster, my turnout tends to be smallish. I thought it might help the situation if I selected a sushi joint that is Portland’s most talked sushi outpost, but it turns out a few of my regulars don’t care for the place.IMG_3164 Anyway, I was glad I managed six for my recent dinner at Bamboo Sushi, but Restaurant’s Roulette’s Sushi Curse continues (Sushi #1, a disaster, slow service, rice shortage, not enough food to go around; Sushi #2, canceled due to lack of interest; Sushi #3, a moderate success, but smaller crowd than usual; Sushi #4, good restaurant, only moderate interest.) Anyway, I guess if I ever want a big turnout for a sushi dinner I need to have it at that kooky, overflowing little place in Sellwood where you get gigantic, modest quality rolls. Yoko’s is still my favorite, but it’s hardly the place for a group dinner.

Portland may not be a trendy sushi mecca like LA, but we do have Bamboo Sushi, the only sustainable sushi restaurant in the United States, if not the world (Marine Stewardship Council Certified.)IMG_3158 Bamboo Sushi serves only items that can be harvested from species with healthy populations or farmed in an environmentally conscious way. In the beginning, the space that houses Bamboo on NE 28th (next to Ken’s) was an Eastside outpost of another sushi place, and I had lunch there once, and it was really fancy. Then Kristofor Lofgren, who I believe was associated with Masu East (the aforementioned restaurant) decided he would take over the spot himself, and go in another direction, a much harder direction. In fancy sushi cities, they ofter gravitate toward certain species of fish that are trendy and unusual to eat, not caring what their harvesting is doing to the species themselves or the oceans that support them. Mr. Lofgren, on the other hand, ┬ádecided he would open a sushi restaurant based on his own sensibilities, those being that you have respect for the sea and don’t market seafood that is over harvested or environmentally damaging to harvest. Although he wanted to open a popular restaurant, he insisted on putting the ocean before the eater, knowing there are plenty of abundant, fresh, tasty fish out there that you can create magnificent seafood meals from. Many people believed that Bamboo Sushi wouldn’t be able to make much of a go of it, but over the last 3-4 years it’s been packed, so much of a success that they decided to open a second location recently in NW Portland.

It’s a HIT with us

Although I love it, I’ve never had too much luck co-mingling Japanese food (and especially sushi) and Restaurant Roulette. I see people in our group eat raw fish all the time, but then when sushi comes around, forget it. Do people even try sushi (especially rolls) before they reject it out of hand? Most of the time it’s just vegetables, rice, seaweed and fish, and often the fish is smoked or otherwise cooked. Okay, it’s true raw fish isn’t supposed to be ultra healthy for you, as you can never be totally sure what’s lurking, but if you can eat an entire plate of hamachi, or a bowl of ceviche, or an entire meal consisting of a raw tuna starter and basically a raw tuna main course (yes Glenda, fingers are being pointed in your direction) why isn’t the tiny portion of raw fish in a tuna roll okay compared to 20 times as much seared Ahi? Let’s face it, there seems to be some sort of brain block when it comes to sushi.

As far as our group’s history with Japanese, I think it’s pretty well non-existent or hideously bad. IMG_2481About four years ago I put Restaurant Murata on the roster in December, a place that was supposed to have wonderful sushi, but I only had one taker, so the dinner was cancelled. Also, long, long ago, when the corner of 30th and Killingsworth was just starting to get its foot in the dining door and Yakuza had just opened (I think the first Micah Camden restaurant in that area) I sent out an RSVP notice for Yakuza, but about 2 days later it got an incredibly scathing review in the Oregonian, which said the food was awful, so I put another non-Japanese restaurant in its place. So our only real Japanese outing would have to be the infamous Menji-En, surely one for the record books as far as torturous evenings in dining out, the woeful Japanese Restaurant who had no rice. Although that dinner was one of our earliest, I believe in our first 6 months, it’s one of my favorite reviews, and you can check it out here at this blog (just select sushi in the category search.) (more…)