When Kristofor Lofgren started Bamboo Sushi in 2008, he had no intention of growing it into a sustainable seafood power house with eight locations and myriad spinoffs too. But that's what he did. And soon Bamboo Sushi, the Portland chainlet's first-ever Seattle location and its largest so far, will arrive in University Village come November.
Bamboo Sushi will open in the former Blue C Sushi space (right next to the forthcoming Mr. West Cafe), and with a whopping 4,700 square feet Cory Schisler, who handles things on the restaurant's design and marketing end, says the huge restaurant will be able to house five distinct zones. There's the sweeping dining room, then a liquor bar (ideal for happy hour snacks and drinks), a 21-seat sushi bar where one could dig into a chef's choice omakase, a patio, and a to-go window. Weaving all that square footage together is a "clean, sleek, modern" vibe rooted in Japanese design elements with a contemporary bent—stone countertops, white oak, brass screens. Basically those sushi restaurant aesthetics one would be familiar with, but punched up with, you guessed it, sustainable materials.
As for the menu, Bamboo Sushi will bring its same lineup of favorites that's built a strong fanbase in Portland: crunchy fried cauliflower with spicy black bean sauce; miso-cured black cod with chili oil; the Green Machine roll, the restaurant's most popular signature roll that, funny enough, has nary fish in it but rather tempura fried long bean. Like its other locations, menu variability will let this feel like its own place, not part of a growing chain. So whoever Bamboo Sushi hires as a chef de cuisine will have some latitude on seasonal and even weekly specials, creating dishes using hyperlocal ingredients and culinary aptitude. (The culinary director and new head of culinary training for Lofgren's Sustainable Restaurant Group will oversee the new Seattle restaurant until a chef de cuisine gets their sea legs, so to speak.) Other vegetarian and vegan options will round out food offerings.
The expansion shouldn't be too surprising. "Seattle's always been on the list," explains Schisler. "It's in our backyard [and] shares so many of the same values that Portland has—loving Pacific Northwest seafood, caring about sustainability." There are already two locations in Colorado, one in the works in San Francisco, with sights set on the East Coast. Even in Seattle, says Schisler, "University Village will not be our only location."
Sustainable sushi almost sounds like an oxymoron, a prank on those who are aware of the ocean's dwindling fish stocks. But over the last decade, Lofgren's been establishing a supply chain with fishermen and processors who themselves have transparent, environmentally considerate practices. B Corporation Certified, Marine Stewardship Council, James Beard Smart Test Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium—these may read like virtue-flaunting badges of approval by some pretty lofty orgs, but consider those certifications proof that Bamboo Sushi doesn't throw around environmental buzzwords without backing it up. They consider everything from species (not further straining an over-caught fish) to building relationships with transparent processors and fisherman to betting on aquaculture. "Farm-raised fish gets such a bad rap, but it truly is the future of the seafood industry, " says Schisler. Overcrowded, antibiotic-pumped fish certainly give the industry due criticism. But, Schisler says, "There's so many people out there doing it right."
Bamboo Sushi, too, is out there trying to get it right, spreading the sustainable seafood gospel one restaurant at a time.
When it arrives in November, find the new Bamboo Sushi at 2675 NE University Village Street for lunch and dinner daily, with a weekday happy hour.