5 Fusion- Best of Bend

April 26, 2012 by Cobi | 1 Comment

My first visit to 5 Fusion in Bend, OR was for a random happy hour. By the time we had finished our nosh, I was smitten. Sipping martinis under the suspended celling of water felt like taking a mini vacation without having to leave the well appointed minimalist space. The attention to detail in the service, the food and presentation is exceptional.

Ordering from the happy hour menu, it was exciting to have so many plant-based options, sans de rigueur tofu. I started with the vegetable tempura, since I use this as my standard gauge for most Japanese restaurants. Is the tempura batter light and lacy? Yes! Are the veggies cooked to perfection? Yes! Is the assortment pleasant to eat? Yes, shiitake mushroom, asparagus,green beans, and sweet potato are some of my favorites. Next, we had eggplant prepared in a style reminiscent of eggplant parmesan but with an Asian twist. The eggplant medallions were deep fried in a panko crust and paired with a rich tomato sauce instead of being smothered in cheese. The textures and flavors made this dish divine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Owner Lilian Chu and Executive Chef Joe Kim are creating culinary magic by blending flavors from both East and West and focusing on local, organic ingredients. “There’s nothing better than fresh vegetables…just a little bit of seasoning and they taste wonderful,” says Joe Kim (pictured at right). I had to go back for more and lunch was the perfect excuse for more yumminess.

 

 

It’s easy enough for a plant-based foodie to hit some great vegetarian/vegan/raw kitchens even in small towns. However, it’s a little more of a challenge to find an upscale dining experience that will make the omnivores rave and still be veg-friendly. 5 Fusion is the perfect solution without ever feeling compromised.

As an island girl, I have a special affinity for tropical delights. The first course was this “ah-mazing” dragon fruit, green apple and pineapple salad topped with shaved coconut. Fresh,bright and visually stunning.

 

My other weakness is for savory, crunchy snacks- the taro root chips satisfied the craving.

When the plate of wok-fried green beans was set down, I could not concentrate on anything else. The aroma was so intoxicating, all I wanted to do was eat the beans! *vegans: this dish is normally made with oyster sauce, so ask for a modification

My fellow food warrior tried the ahi poke salad served on a bed of mixed greens, seaweed, avocado and won ton crisps. Judging by the look on his face, I knew he was happy he didn’t have to share this one with me!

I always encourage people to tell the chef or their server about dietary restrictions because it can often result in a spectacular off the menu creation. One of the dishes Joe Kim made for me was this curried vegetable risotto topped with…kimchee!

Vegetable maki and vegetable tempura roll topped with sweet chili sauce served with micro greens

Shiitakes and soba noodles swim in a delicate blend of soy and deep umami flavor. It’s like a warm hug, a giant bowl of comfort and I’m pretty sure I could eat this everyday.

And if I was merely smitten before, this sushi roll made me fall in love. Green apple, inari, asparagus maki (roll) with a sweet chili infused coconut cream and topped with crushed macadamia nuts. WOW, wow, WOW! When Joe travels, he says he always visits the museums and restaurants in different cities. His passion for beauty and food is translated effortlessly onto each dish that leaves his kitchen. “That’s the best part, making a piece of art out of food” says Joe. Like Hokusai’s The Great Wave, the components of this sushi roll washed over me and left me floating on a sea of gastronomic delight.

5 Fusion hosts a charity dinner once a month for a different beneficiary and their fundraising efforts have been quite successful. In 2011, they raised over $35,000 for local charities. The next event will be hosted for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Oregon on May 21, 2012. The tasting menus can be altered to fit dietary requests like vegan/vegetarian or to accommodate food allergies, so be sure to inquire.

It also came as no surprise when I learned 5 Fusion had won the “Restaurant of the Year” award from The Source Weekly. You can tell that this is not just a restaurant, but a labor of love. 5 Fusion definitely tops my “Best Of Bend” list and this leg of my Oregon food tour is now complete.

5 Fusion & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Photo credit: Paul G. Ong

Lunch at Shirokiya- Ala Moana Center

April 10, 2012 by Cobi | 1 Comment

I know it bugs some of you to answer the ubiquitous question we get as plant-powered people : “Well, what do you eat?Tofu?” But, I get really geeked out and excited to share the foodie bounty we get to choose from as a veg*ns.

One of my go-to spots for a cheap and cheerful lunch on Oahu is Shirokiya in the Ala Moana Shopping Center. Shirokiya is a Japanese department store that features one of the most impressive displays of what a food court should be. It is not exclusively veg*n, but trust me, if you can’t find something to eat here – you’re just being difficult! If you enter the store from the mall level, you can peruse the baked goods from St. Germain Bakery. Stroll by the kiosks to sample waffle donuts or manju if you’re feeling adventurous.

Head up the escalators and prepare to have your senses overwhelmed. Each month, a different food is featured and a festival type atmosphere is created to celebrate. One month it may be tonkatsu (fried meats) and the next it might be mochi (sweets made with a rice flour base) or musubi (rice balls). Bentos, sushi, soups, salads, made to order dishes, tempura, and a buffet line are offered all year long.Take your time and be sure to look at everything before you make your selection. Two laps around the upper level is recommended because you may miss something delicious the first time around.

My personal favorite is the selection of okazu (side dishes) with every vegetable you could imagine. My mouth begins to water when I see namasu (pickled cucumbers, radish,seaweed) and the hijiki (seasoned seaweed). If you are garlic lover like me, try the pink pickled garlic for a taste delight. I could seriously eat that stuff like candy and BONUS-keep the vampires away. If you’re taste buds are steering you towards something heartier, try the nishime (vegetable stew) filled with lotus root, shiitakes, carrots and more. There are cases of salads and rows of fresh produce for the super health conscious but if you’re on vacation and feeling naughty, try the fried delights like vegetable tempura. I have a special place in my heart for kabocha (Asian pumpkin) and sweet potato tempura hot out of the fryer. If you’re head is starting to spin and you need to make a quick get away, grab a bento (mixed lunch box), an assortment of veggie sushi or a musubi set  to go with your oshinko (pickled veggies) and your meal is complete. Noodle-philes can get your carb on with yakisoba (fried noodles) or bowl of udon (fat noodles in broth) with different toppings.

The ingredient list is labeled on most of the packaged food, which makes avoiding certain allergens/animal products easy. One caveat: If you are a strict vegan, ask if them item you’ve selected is free of bonito (fish flakes), as this ingredient is often used in miso soup, broths and some dipping sauces. I tell the staff that I am allergic to seafood and they are very accommodating.

Pay at one of the cashier stations located on either ends of the top floor, find a table and enjoy the people watching as you sip on a glass of sake. Kanpai!
Shirokiya on Urbanspoon

Hinone Mizunone

January 7, 2012 by Cobi | 0 comments

When I eat Japanese food, I judge a restaurant on one thing first and foremost: the rice. Hinone Mizunone has a reputation that it’s all about the rice. As soon as you approach the entrance, you know they’re serious when you see two monster rice cooking pots featured in the large window. They supposedly prepare “gohan”, the rice, old style without electric rice cookers.

The white rice is perfectly steamed producing a texture that is fluffier than the rice cooker version. Not quite as dry as Chinese rice, it’s still slightly sticky (‘cuz locals like da sticky rice). You’ll notice the difference more when the rice has cooled.

But on the way out, we noticed a rice cooker (see pics) that was not there when we entered! What the heck is that about?! Anyway, the rice is good, the staff is super friendly and the service is so fast that you’ll barely have a chance to sip your sake before your order is already being placed in front of you.

Alas, I cannot add them to my favorite’s list – they offer almost NO plant food options. I mean… I guess you could ask for a cold, lifeless sliver of tofu to eat with your rice but I have a weakness for vegetable tempura. Or soba salad. Or something other than two sad lookin’ eggplant oshinko. Ya feel me?

Hinone Mizunone on Urbanspoon

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