Guilt-Free Decadence: Sushi at its Most Sustainable
While in Portland over the weekend, I knew I had to look up Kristofor Lofgren and his sushi restaurant Bamboo Sushi. Hailed as the first sustainable sushi restaurant in the world, this Portland eatery was established in 2008 and a second restaurant was opened in 2012, with the plan to expand into California in the near future.
Kristofor decided to get into sustainable sushi because he felt as though he could affect the most environmental conscientiousness and change for the oceans by approaching people through what they eat. I’m addicted to sushi, but understand the concerns surrounding fishing practices, so it was refreshing to hear that you can eat sushi without the guilt, and without harming the oceans in the process. Bamboo Sushi has a policy of only serving seafood that is listed as sustainable or a good alternative by Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute. Although this is more expensive than conventional seafood, they work closely with vendors to keep prices reasonable. Bamboo Sushi also supports other establishments that are attempting to become more sustainable, and keeping the dialogue about sustainable seafood moving forward. They provide a higher quality, more sustainable product for their customers, but it is more difficult to implement a verifiably sustainable supply chain so it makes it difficult for other restaurants to follow their model.
Kristofor pointed out that typically, sushi is the least sustainable cuisine one can eat, so by attacking sustainable sushi as his first restaurant concept, he was able to make the biggest impact for the oceans. He believes that if we change the restaurant industry, thereby changing people’s dining habits, there will be tremendous positive impact on the environment globally. His ultimate goal is to change the way people think about food. When they realize they can eat healthy, sustainable and affordably-priced food while having fun, the entire restaurant concept will begin to change.
Not only does this admirable restaurant serve only sustainable seafood but it strives to be sustainable in other areas as well. It is a PGE “Green Source Business,” sourcing all power from renewable energy sources, using biodegradable containers, recycled paper products and composting and recycling. We visited the newer Northwest location in Portland, in a 101-year old theater building, featuring LED lighting (less than 300 watts) and a bar made from reclaimed, old white oak.
Not only is Bamboo Sushi admirable for its environmentally conscientious behavior, but the food is also utterly delectable. We were greeted at the door and shown to our table which was next to a beautiful mural of a tiger shark and the trophic levels of the ocean. After receiving a complimentary bowl of salted edamame we were introduced to our waiter whose enthusiasm for the restaurant, the food and the entire concept was infectious. He recommended a starter of shishito peppers which were sautéed in butter and bacon, and delicious, salty and sweet at the same time, with just the right amount of spice. We also decided on the green machine roll, which is typically vegetarian and filled with tempura asparagus and green onion with avocado and cilantro sweet chili aioli, but we added fresh caught albacore. We also tried the usuzukuri – thinly sliced whitefish with finely chopped jalapenos, ponzu, green onions, tobiko (flying fish roe), sesame seeds and tataki yasai. The Ring of Fire roll was composed of fried oysters, cucumber with albacore, jalapeno and jalapeno marmalade and then fried shallots. This roll was truly unique because of the spice of the jalapeno mixed with the decadence of the fried oysters mixed with the albacore.
Although my husband and I were completely stuffed at this point, our server informed us that we absolutely had to try a piece or two of the nigiri and he recommended the albacore, the smoked wild caught ivory salmon and the truffle avocado. The fish was delicious and sliced perfectly, and the salmon, cold smoked in-house, was my favorite piece of the fish from the entire meal. The truffle avocado was something I’ve never had before and will be eager to recreate at home. The entire meal was over-the-top in terms of taste, accompanied by a server who was truly enthusiastic about the sustainability efforts that were taking place. He even informed us that he had taken a decrease in pay in order to come to this position because he was so excited about the revolutionary work that Bamboo Sushi was undertaking.
We couldn’t agree more, Bamboo Sushi and Kristofor Lofgren truly are making a difference in restaurant consumer’s notions of seafood, one delicious bite at a time.