Newcomer Bamboo makes its mark on sushi


You may not have heard of Bamboo yet. This Asian fusion restaurant is not only a newcomer to the La Jolla dining scene, it’s also located above street level on Prospect Street, which makes it easy to miss when you’re passing by. However, when you try the wonderful dishes offered in this stylish eatery, you’re not likely to forget the name Bamboo.

Bamboo has a full menu of hand rolls and specialty rolls, and head sushi chef Robert Cassidy is outstanding. Because Chef Cassidy starts out with the freshest and highest-quality ingredients, everything he prepares is delicious, starting with the California rolls ($5).

Among the many wonderful specialty rolls on the Bamboo menu are shrimp tempura roll ($10), smoked salmon, chive cream cheese and cucumber roll ($7), hibachi grilled shrimp roll with crab and asparagus ($13), a mix of blackened shrimp, spicy tuna and fresh salmon roll ($16), and several other specialties - including three tempting vegetarian rolls ($5 to $9).

Nigiri sushi and sashimi are available in two-piece or five-piece portions, with the nigiri served on rice. They range in price from a dollar to about $15.

But when you check out the other side of the ample menu, you’ll find several exciting dishes such as tapas, entrees and salads. Because Bamboo serves all day long, you can order any of these dishes for lunch or dinner whenever you like to dine.

Jenny Thompson may look a little young for an executive chef, but she’s a marvel when it comes to cooking up exciting Asian-influenced dishes.

“I have a passion for Asian-style food,” she said, and her creativity with the cuisine she loves is remarkable. Yet, Chef Thompson is well aware that Bamboo’s food has to appeal to a broad audience. Therefore, the dishes are completely accessible. If you like spicy food, she can accommodate you. Otherwise, you can still enjoy a wide range of entrees and tapas.

We love the tapas menu, which includes a trio of sliders - you get one each of salmon, Kobe beef and crab on mini brioche rolls for $15. These bite-sized sliders are delightful. Try the sweet potato fries ($8) for a tasty starter. They’re served with wasabi aioli and spicy raspberry jam for dipping. You’ll find them habit-forming.

Another fabulous choice on the tapas menu is the edamame hummus ($8). Dip the Japanese sesame crackers into this smooth green-colored hummus spread, and you’ll be in seventh heaven. You might not expect to find macaroni and cheese in an Asian-style restaurant, but wait till you taste the lobster mac n’ cheese Chef Thompson created for Bamboo. This Asian take on an American classic is fabulous ($16).

If you like shrimp - and who doesn’t - try the pancetta-wrapped jumbo tiger shrimp ($10) at Bamboo. The shrimp is slathered with hoisin barbeque sauce, and it is finger-lickin’ good. Tempura, an old standard of Japanese cuisine, is available in your choice of shrimp, veggie or mixed ($8, $10 or $12, respectively).

Have you ever had Asian nachos? Well, Bamboo features an exotic version of the Mexican classic, and it’s absolutely delicious. The nachos ($10) are made with Korean short rib meat, won-ton chips, queso fresco and a mango salsa. What a great idea for an appetizer.

The Thai fish tacos are another treat. These mini tacos ($12) are served with Asian slaw and cilantro cream. Mango salsa and gingered pico de gallo is served on the side. There are almost a dozen tapas on the menu, so bring a gang and share a few different tapas with your tablemates. It makes dining at Bamboo so much fun.

The entree list includes garlic-crusted halibut with shitake lemongrass risotto cakes ($24), blackened salmon with mango salsa and asparagus ($20), almond crusted chicken breast with Asian citrus glaze and Sichuan green beans ($16), and sauteed filet mignon with Sichuan peppercorn sauce and wasabi mashed potatoes ($24).

The sharing entree menu includes Mongolian beef ($13), kung pao shrimp or chicken ($14), and tofu with Japanese eggplant ($11). All these dishes can be prepared as mild and as spicy as you like, so tell your server your preference.

The desserts are perfect complements to the meal. Try the gelato trio ($14 for three flavors or $6 for a single scoop). The sorbet is excellent, as well ($12 for a trio, and $5 for a single scoop).

The decor at Bamboo is as sophisticated and understated as the food. The overall look is sleek and contemporary, with a black-and-white color scheme that reflects the Asian culinary designs. White leather booths and chairs give both the inside and the balcony overlooking the Cove a rich modern flair.

The restaurant also has a courtyard-style patio - surrounded by bamboo - for relaxed outdoor dining. Come for Happy Hour every day of the week and you’ll enjoy drink, sushi and tapas specials. And be sure to try some of the exotic martinis, mixed drinks and sake offerings, as well as the wines and beers available when you dine at this new eatery.

Bamboo is at 1025 Prospect St. Call (858) 459-3208.