posted 2012-02-02 12:42:45

Bamboo Sushi

Dining Review

Lizette Borreli

Staff Writer

On 1st avenue between 68th and 69th street, a local sushi restaurant has become a staple of the Upper East Side dining circuit. Bamboo Sushi, formerly known as Kao Sushi, aims to bring a taste of Japan to the busy Upper East Side streets. Bamboo Sushi serves a broad clientele: from high school students, to doctors, to local residents who rely on Bamboo Sushi as their go-to sushi place.

Modern Asian Feng Shui decorations, including Japanese lanterns, attract attention from passerby’s who occasionally stop and marvel through the windows into the restaurant. During spring and summer Bamboo Sushi offers outdoor dining, and the charming exterior of Bamboo make diners feel that they’re experiencing true Japanese authenticity.

The interior décor consists of refurbished hardwood floors accompanied by maple oak wooden chairs and tables set against red brick walls. The cozy atmosphere gives the customers a communal homey feeling. The atmosphere is not your typical Japanese restaurant despite the decorations. Bamboo Sushi mimics a daytime sports bar that serves sushi with two 40-inch TVs on opposite corners of the restaurant playing ESPN or CNN.

The sushi bar is complete with bamboo place mats that match the curtains separating the dining area from the restrooms. The chefs behind the bar are welcoming with friendly smiles and will often share their recommendations for the best catch of the day.

Bamboo Sushi is best known for their carefully crafted specialty rolls, but if you are looking for simple, cheap food, Bamboo Sushi can offer you basic rolls. The classic California roll contains cucumber, imitation crab, and avocado. The outer layer of rice is sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds making the roll appear thicker than it actually is. The California roll is priced at $4.00, but unfortunately fails to impress customers with its bland taste and mediocre assemblage.

A lot of specialty rolls contain spicy fish and the best way to judge whether they are worth the money is to start off by tasting the basic spicy tuna roll. The customer has the option of the roll as an outside thick roll, hand roll or a ship roll. The sushi that most satisfies spice lovers is the spicy tuna and crunch roll. The little crunchy bits of tempura batter are mixed together into the spicy tuna, subtly adding a bit of texture. The spicy salmon and spicy tuna and crunch rolls cost $5.00.

A specialty roll that is a must-try at Bamboo Sushi is the Dynamite roll. The inner part of the roll contains spicy tuna and the outside is covered with a spicy sauce. A slice of salmon, scallops and green onions also fill the inside of this mouth-watering roll, displaying an array of different fish layered one on top of the other. The chef carefully cuts the roll into their individual pieces and covers it with spicy mayonnaise and a sprinkle of tobiko (small fish eggs) on the outside layer. The Dynamite roll goes for $8.00 and manages to truly ignite the taste buds.

On the other hand, a roll that is more pleasing to observe than devour is the Valentine roll. It wraps tuna, salmon, avocado, spicy mayo and tobiko in pink seaweed. The design of the roll allows the customer to choose white or brown rice. Its aesthetic appeal is necessary to mask its otherwise bland and below average taste.

It is not surprising that the majority of Bamboo Sushi’s clientele visit during 11a.m. - 4 p.m., to obtain Bamboo Sushi’s lunch special. There are various sushi and sashimi lunch boxes that range from $8-$13 that include either miso soup or salad. The bento boxes include entrees ranging from chicken teriyaki, to spicy Korean pork, to a California roll, rice, miso soup and salad and fried sushi for $8.25. The teriyaki sauce can at times be a bit too sweet and is often found drenching the overcooked vegetables. The vegetable gyoza, if steamed, is priced at $4.50. The portions are more like appetizers but are generous for the price. The sashimi slices of salmon, tuna, yellowtail, unagi, uni are highly recommended and cost anywhere from $2-$4 per piece, satisfying any fish fanatic’s taste buds.

The service at Bamboo Sushi is speedy and efficient. However, during rush hours the staff is more interested in getting their customers in and out than in letting them enjoy their dining experience. The wait for a table is often around 10 minutes, and so reservations are recommended to ensure a table and decent service.

Bamboo Sushi’s required minimum order for delivery is $10.00 with a 15-30 minute estimated wait. Take-out is also an option and usually takes 10 minutes or less to prepare. For sushi on a budget, Bamboo Sushi does not disappoint with its price range providing affordability, efficiency and a yummy taste of Japan.