5 Fusion & Sushi Bar

Food: () Simplicity and subtlety allow quality ingredients to speak for themselves.

Service: () Professional staff is trained to assist diners in interpreting menu.

Atmosphere: () Custom overhead water feature highlights a spacious modern room.

More Info

Location: 821 NW Wall St., Bend

Hours: 4 p.m. to close every day

Cuisine: Asian fusion

Price range: Starters and sushi plates $6 to $19, entrees $18 to $35, chefs’ menus $60 and $70

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: On request

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Eggplant Jap Chae is a favorite choice

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Large patio

Reservations: Highly recommended

Contact: 5fusion.com, 541-323-2328

For more area restaurant reviews, visit bendbulletin.com/restaurants

J oe Kim may be Bend’s most honored chef, but he is not one to rest on his considerable laurels.

Kim is a chef who never wants to stop learning. At every opportunity, he expands his knowledge by working for a week or two at nationally acclaimed restaurants more exalted than his own 5 Fusion & Sushi Bar. In past years, those have included the Napa Valley’s French Laundry and Chicago’s Alinea.

This winter, he interned with chef Daniel Humm at New York’s 11 Madison Park, ranked at the top of the 2017 list of the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants.” He followed that with a short residence at Manresa, a Silicon Valley, California, restaurant whose chef, David Kinch, is a finalist to be chosen best chef in the West by the James Beard Foundation.

Kim’s considerable creativity earned him consecutive James Beard semifinalist nominations as best chef in the Pacific Northwest in 2014, 2015 and 2016. No other Central Oregon chef has been so recognized, even once.

Yet as someone who has enjoyed his food since 2010, I can honestly say he’s better than ever: He is mastering the culinary arts of simplicity and subtlety. Kim acknowledges: “Maybe I’m maturing as a chef.”

Tasting menu

Excited to discover what Kim may have learned this winter in New York and the Bay Area, my dining companion and I ordered the new $70 spring tasting menu at 5 Fusion.

After an amuse bouche of a fried green tomato wedge with caviar, creme fraiche and a nasturtium blossom, we were presented a sushi course. Among the five individual nigiri were two featuring beef carpaccio and three with raw fish, including hamachi (yellowtail tuna) with pomegranate foam and toro (tuna belly) with thinly sliced truffle.

A tuna and salmon tartare, tossed in leek oil, was served with habanero jelly in a pipette. An arugula salad with bay scallops and Iberico ham was tossed with shredded Granny Smith apple and a light vinaigrette.

A Dungeness crab claw and crab cake accompanied a risotto of Japanese rice; salmon was featured in a miso succotash mixed with duck confit, carrot, asparagus and mushroom, and topped with ikura (salmon eggs).

A fois gras course with quince and blood-orange vinaigrette was presented with a pork rind. Kimchi-fried rice accompanied a tender Wagyu New York steak, served with a chimichurri sauce.

Desserts included creme brulee with sesame brittle, strawberry powder, a yuzu lollipop and, our favorite, white chocolate truffles with passion-fruit jelly.

This was no doubt the best meal we have had at 5 Fusion, which continues to defy public expectation that it is primarily a sushi bar. The sushi is marvelous, to be sure, but as the tasting menu demonstrated, it is so much more.

‘My own style’

So, what did Kim learn in New York and Los Gatos?

“There’s nothing yet that I can really purport to have learned,” he said. “It was more reflective. I reviewed the creative process with each chef, but I don’t want to imitate what others are doing. I want it to be my own style. I’m never going to make a sea bass unique, so I have to make it my own.”

Kim said he was impressed by the simplicity of both restaurants and the lack of complicated ingredients.

In his new menu design, he said, he’s no longer trying to be “flashy for the sake of being flashy. I can’t just be putting something on a plate without there being a reason.” So he is fashioning menus with more simple ingredients and limiting portion sizes to satisfy diners without leaving them too full.

Five Fusion is well known for its charity dinner events. Since opening in 2009, the restaurant has raised more than $400,000 for 19 local nonprofit organizations at 51 individual dinners, according to partner Lilian Chu.

Service continues to be a strength of the restaurant. Kim’s wife, Laura, trains the staff by insisting each server knows precisely what goes into each menu item.

“They must really know the menu, not just the names, to be able to answer diners’ questions,” Joe Kim said. “We expect them to have the confidence to help people choose. It has a real impact on the success of the food we serve.”

The 5 Fusion crew will make its presence known in the NorthWest Crossing neighborhood in late May, Kim said. Poke Row, an intimate, Hawaiian-style cafe specializing in marinated tuna bowls (poke, pronounced “PO-kee”), is slated to go into a building completing construction. Its principal is Justin Chu, son of Lilian Chu.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com