There’s an empire being built, and it’s being built on the back of Bamboo Sushi. The fact is, the Bamboo Sushi Group has made their mark not only on the Portland restaurant scene; they are taking their sustainable sushi concept across the country. And yet, founder and CEO Kristofor Lofgren isn’t content to stop there.
Enter Quickfish, his new poke bar concept. Opened in a space just a couple doors down from his SW Downtown Bamboo Sushi location, Quickfish was born out of a need for more kitchen space, but has turned into a concept that may one day end up eclipsing Bamboo Sushi, as Bamboo Shushi Group founder and CEO Kristofor Lofgren explains.
“Bamboo is great at what it does, and I think it has a lot of room to grow nationally as we expand, but none-the-less it’s expensive and it takes a certain amount of time to sit down and have a meal there,” he says.
He intends for Quickfish to be the remedy. By greatly simplifying the experience and transitioning to a more flexible concept – a poke bar – Quickfish allows Lofgren to continue pursuing his sustainable ambitions while targeting a market Bamboo can’t touch.
“I want people to come here for lunch or dinner and say, ‘hey, I don’t want to go out for a sixty-dollar dinner, maybe I just want a ten- to twenty-dollar meal, to just grab it and go,” Lofgren says of the concept.
With ambitions that go far beyond the quick-and-simple passersby stopping in for a poke bowl, Lofgren hopes to see this concept invade everything from airports to your night on the couch watching the ‘Blazer’s game.
“We are hoping to put these in airports, arenas and concert venues, where there are little to no healthy options,” he says. “People don’t go out to sushi for sporting events. So instead of burgers and pizza, you get a Firebowl and some nachos delivered and sit back to enjoy the game at home.”
With Quickfish signing up for Postmates delivery, getting a delicious poke bowl brought to your front door will soon be a reality.
Oh, and he really did say nachos, but we aren’t talking ordinary nachos, these are poke nachos. A brown bag filled the local’s favorite, Juanita’s tortilla chips, these nachos combine the familiar with the all-new for a fascinating juxtaposition.
The dip for those chips is comprised of spicy tuna, krab and shrimp salad, yuzu guacamole, crispy shallot and garlic, cilantro, creamy habanero masago and sweet soy sauce. Dip your chip then release your grip, this is one elevated snacking experience. They had me at the yuzu guacamole.
With ambitions so large, one wonders whether Lofgren’s dream of sustainably serving seafood at every Quickfish in every airport and strip mall across the country – at a price people will pay – is truly feasible.
“While other restaurants are buying fifty to one-hundred pounds of fish, for this year we are going to buy four-hundred thousand pounds,” Lofgren bluntly explains. “So, that gives us access to unprecedented quality and price point. We can make it more streamlined and affordable.”
Lofgren looks to outside sources for sustaining such a vast network of seafood restaurants, as he explained in his recent exclusive sit-down interview with Portland Metro Live.
With his concept fleshed out and plans for expansion into other areas in Portland already in the works, Lofgren now relies on his corporate executive chef Jin Yoo Sang, who specializes both in food and in not forgetting where he came from.
“I trained a dishwasher at a location for a few weeks and when I told him my title, he said, ‘Oh, I would never expect you to be training me on the dish pit,” Yoo Sang explains with a mirthful smile.
It’s that kind of attitude, wanting to remain a “name and not a number,” as he puts it, that helps lend the Bamboo Sushi Group its success.
But in the food business success is measured as much as how great your food is as how great you are as a leader. Here, Yoo Sang and his team still shine. “I really do have a great team,” he says. It becomes obvious when the food arrives.
Four samples arrive with a bowl of two types of rice. Visitors to Quickfish will can choose a bowl and rice type and receive a generous portion in a large bowl. They offer pre-designed bowls, but there are also options to build your own bowl if you want to get adventurous.
The Power of Poke
The tasting starts with the Bamboo Bowl, which is essentially a deconstructed Green Machine, Bamboo Sushi’s most popular roll. The poke bowl comes with the same albacore and sauce, but they add crispy fried shallots as a substitute for the tempura. Choose your rice and you’re off to the poke races. The crispy fried shallots are what give everything a real pop in your mouth. For Bamboo Sushi lovers, this will be a go-to bowl.
Next up is my personal favorite, the Island Bowl. Order one with Hawaiian flair in mind as it comes with big eye tuna, sweet onion, avocado, Jacobsen sea salt, sesame brittle, cucumber ogo and a classic Hawaiian sauce. The sesame brittle is undoubtedly the star of this bowl, adding a sweetness and crunch to please both flavor and texture profiles.
Lofgren’s personal favorite, the Firebowl, arrives with plenty of heat to spare. Kodiak Alaskan sockeye salmon, red onion, kaiware, cucumber, candied Thai chili and a creamy habanero masago sauce give this bowl a kick to the palate. But what’s that they say, you can’t have pleasure without a little pain?
This bowl delivers, with the candied Thai chili and creamy habanero masago combining for a fiery, flavorful two-punch combo. You also can’t go wrong with wild caught Kodiak sockeye. The fish is tender and delicious, of the quality you can expect from Bamboo Sushi
The final presentation arrives with a big eye and albacore spicy tuna combo. Sweet onion, crispy garlic, crispy shallots, avocado and a bit of seaweed and nori round it out. For tuna lovers, this one is a go-to, as it shines with big tuna flavor.
Of course, we’d be remiss leaving out the foundation for any one of these bowls, and that’s the rice. “When so much of our concept is rice, we are going to put some attention to detail to it, as much as we would the poke,” Lofgren says.
There are two options for the rice, one is the lightly seasoned, premium white rice and their medicine rice. The medicine rice is composed of glutinous whole grains, glutinous millet, foxtail arrow millet, beans, peas and black rice. Both varieties are sticky and wonderful, perfect for soaking up the poke juice and sauces at the bottom of the bowl.
With options like these, Portland is in for a treat. You are essentially getting the same quality seafood offered at Bamboo Sushi for a fraction of the price. On nights where a one-of-a-kind presentation or greater variety aren’t required, perhaps a less expensive trip to Quickfish will satisfy the same sustainable seafood urge.
Considering the success of Bamboo Sushi, having now expanded into Denver, it’s hard to see Lofgren doing anything other than exactly what he says he is going to do. A Quickfish appearing at PDX as you head for your next trip out of town will very much likely be in all our futures.
Quickfish is located at 1122 SE Stark Street in Portland, Oregon. For more information, visit their website at www.quickfishpokebar.com or give them a call at (503) 444-7455.
William Bessette – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor
William Bessette is a journalist and freelance writer who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over thirteen years. When he’s not profiling Portland-area restaurants and residents, you can find him reporting on national and international travel and eco-tourism through his travel brand, Floppy Hat Adventures.