Thomas Rhee took over an existing sushi restaurant in Northvale and kept the name, the furniture and the streamlined interior décor. But everything else – especially the menu and the food – has changed.
Since the "new" Bamboo opened in February, one of the biggest attractions has been the "all-you-can-eat" menu, Rhee says. But it is not a buffet; everything on the "all you can eat" menu is prepared to order, he says.
"We give customers a menu sheet and they mark down what they would like, and then the order is placed in the kitchen and at the sushi bar, made fresh and sent to the table," Rhee says. "If they would like seconds or thirds, they can order as much as they want. … We encourage them to not waste food. If they start throwing food away, I basically give them a friendly warning, and a surcharge would be applied if they continue to waste food.
"But so far it’s working out great," he says. "Most of the customers are very respectful of the food."
Bamboo is the first restaurant owned by Rhee, but his culinary experience includes cooking French cuisine at Chanterelle in New York; sushi restaurants including Ichiumi in New York and Edison; corporate executive chef for Todai in California; and sous chef for Arthur’s Landing in Weehawken and South City Grill. Co-owner Sue Seo was most recently general manager at Ichiumi in New York City.
Rhee describes Bamboo’s interior design as "modern but cozy." Playing on the restaurant’s name, bamboo is a prominent feature and backlit for special effect. Lights are set into the floor for added drama. Much of the décor was already in place from the former restaurant, but "we refreshed it" after purchasing the business earlier this year, he says.
On the menu, Rhee is especially proud of Bamboo’s sushi and sashimi.
"I get our tuna from Hawaii – bluefin and bigeye," Rhee says. "I’d rather use better ingredients, make a little less money off each customer and give them a quality product that is far superior."
Customers "have noticed the difference, even in my salmon," Rhee says about Bamboo’s Atlantic salmon and premium Scottish salmon. "I have had lots of comments and compliments about the quality of the fish."
Rhee is also proud of his experienced sushi chefs: "One of my chefs has been making sushi for 45 years," he says. "Between my sushi chefs and myself, combined we have over 100 years of experience."
Popular rolls include the Firecracker (tempura shrimp, avocado and cucumber topped with spicy crab meat and shrimp), Banana Mama (salmon, cucumber and fried banana with eel sauce), Black Dragon (eel, avocado and cucumber with eel sauce) and the Northvale roll (shrimp tempura, avocado, cucumber, spicy tuna and tempura crunch).
Hot dishes include Japanese classics such as teriyaki chicken, skewered meats and donburi.
Rhee plans to introduce a chef’s "signature menu" in about a month that will play off his French culinary background, "sort of a French-Japanese fusion style," he says.
And in the future, Rhee envisions opening more restaurants, including one with French fine dining, a casual American bistro, and a wine bar.
"I’m looking for different locations now," he says.
271 Livingston St., Northvale, 201-750-0200; bamboosushinj.com
Cuisine: Contemporary Japanese; entrée prices $15 to $20, not including sushi menu
Days/hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily; Dinner: 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Sunday, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Credit cards: All major except Discover
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