"Damn the soy sauce! Damn the wasabi! Full French fusion ahead!" OK, Chris Kang, the local sushi chef who just opened Northeast Broadway's Blowfish, a Japanese "fusion" restaurant, never really said that. But after Bite Club tasted a few of his wild new dishes, we can't shake a mental picture of this congenial Los Angeles native hanging from the prow of a Paris-bound fishing boat, a kitchen knife in one hand and creative anarchy on the brain.
Now, the concept of fusion has become pretty unpalatable to the Bite ever since celery foam started showing up on fancy menus a few years back. But one taste of Kang's signature dish Blow Blow--thick bits of tuna, caviar, chunky tomatoes and a spicy cream sauce are ladled over California rolls--reveals that his idea is to tweak Japanese cooking, rather than graft Frankenstein-esque bizarre ingredients atop raw fish--let alone that icky foam.
And that's not the chef's only eclectic knockout. The New Style Sashimi ($12) pairs a fresh mangle of whitefish, ahi, salmon and seared albacore with sweet, crunchy jalapeño peppers and spiced carrots, doused in a plummy mustard-and-ginger sauce.
Kang sliced fish for the sushi czars at Saburo's a decade ago and then, for the past six years, owned and operated Ooki Sushi, a more traditional Japanese restaurant hidden in an 82nd Avenue strip mall. Blowfish's menu of Asian salads, fish and noodle dishes was conceived during Kang's voyage back to Los Angeles last November, an eight-month trip that landed him at the Japanese-French fusion palace Mon.
"Actually, I got the idea for the jalapeño sashimi from a Mexican restaurant," Kang says. "I'm trying to make sushi rolls into full dishes."
Blowfish isn't the only forward-thinking raw-fish joint in town. Shige Fukushima, the co-owner and chef at Hama Sushi (4232 NE Sandy Blvd., 249-1021), which recently took over the Savory Tart's digs, hails from the Big Apple. He says he makes "New York-style" sushi.
Back at Blowfish, by the time the Bite had finished our meal, we hadn't used a single dollop of wasabi. Our darling little ceramic soy-sauce tray, decorated with a bulging-cheeked blowfish, was dry. Kang's simple, well-spiced dishes just don't need dressing up.
And besides, where else can you ask your server for a $9.50 Blow Blow and get a big smile--not a slap in the face?
On Aug. 3, Harriet Fasenfest will shut down her aggressively local coffee klatch, Northeast Alberta's Groundswell Cafe. Business is good, but its owner is just plain tuckered out worrying about the threat of chain coffee shops. She's not worried about Starbucks; it's local caffeine darling Stumptown Coffee that's the threat. "The reason people are here now is because of the fucking muffins," says the 50-year-old firebrand, who misses the days when politics was the main fuel she was pushing. Tracy Olson, a new, less-jaded owner, plans to reopen the space Aug. 23 as the Random Order Coffeehouse.
914 NE Broadway, 288-5149
Groundswell Cafe and Gallery1800 NE Alberta St., 331-1420