Happy Hour

The Happiest Hour: Discounted Sustainable Seafood at Bamboo Sushi

An $8 nigiri plate during Bamboo's happy hour.
An $8 nigiri plate during Bamboo's happy hour. Laura Shunk
If you've listened to any environmental expert bang on for a bit about our looming planetary crisis, then you know that equally troubling as climate change, the melting polar ice caps and rising pollution is the state of our oceans. Warming seas and acidification are causing coral bleaching and massive die-offs of species (including delicious things like oysters), and there's an island of plastic the size of Mexico currently floating in the Pacific. Add to that overfishing, which also takes its toll on crucial ecosystems, and it's enough to make one lie down in despair.

Futile as it seems, though, there are things that we as individuals can do, and they're the things you've heard your hippie friends harping on for decades: BYO canvas bags to the grocery store, ride your bike (it's the carbon dioxide from cars that's causing the acidification, see), and consider what you're eating.

Regarding that last point, rest assured that this is not some ploy to get you to go vegan. But it is cause to think about the seafood you're consuming, and encouragement to look for species that aren't currently headed toward the endangered list. That's hard to do if you eat a lot of sushi; the stock of fish such as bluefin tuna and red snapper are in particularly dire states, yet they remain some of the most popular items at the sushi bar.

click to enlarge Shishito peppers enhanced by miso butter, bacon and bonito. - LAURA SHUNK
Shishito peppers enhanced by miso butter, bacon and bonito.
Laura Shunk
Purveyors know what they're up against, though, and some are working to source more sustainably so as not to threaten their future livelihood. And there is one spot in Denver that offers only sustainably sourced fish on its menu: Bamboo Sushi, a sleek spot at 2715 17th Street in LoHi that just won our Best Sushi Bar designation in this year's Best of Denver. Bamboo's original Portland location was honored by the Marine Stewardship Council as the first sustainable sushi restaurant in the U.S. — and it brings the same approach to Denver.

What's more, Bamboo is affordable, especially when compared with other exalted temples of fish, and feels generous: Each meal starts with a complimentary serving of edamame. The best deal is the omakase, which starts at $40 and could buy you a tour of the restaurant's yakumi options, which dress up nigiri with, say, a dab of pesto or a little lemon zest and sea salt (for purists, straight nigiri is also available, as is sashimi and a variety of rolls). Go to Bamboo on Wednesdays and you can also partake in half-priced bottles of sake.

click to enlarge Filling for the happy-hour steamed bun changes daily. - LAURA SHUNK
Filling for the happy-hour steamed bun changes daily.
Laura Shunk
And on weekdays from 5 to 6 p.m., there's happy hour, which supplies a broad sample of the menu at a discount. A sizable list from the kitchen includes piquant shishito peppers enhanced with deeply savory miso butter, crispy cubes of slab bacon and a pinch of dancing bonito flakes. There's a large, fluffy steamed bun with a different filling each day; recently, that was sweet-spicy barbecue pork and a tangy red cabbage slaw. Just don't miss your chance to taste Bamboo's work with fish — a four-piece nigiri set for $8 gets you four different generous and pristine slices of whatever the chef wants to move. We'd add one of three happy-hour-only rolls or finish with the $3 hand roll, which also changes daily.

And the only thing we'd avoid outright is the okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake loaded with scallops, shrimp and mushrooms that here is both too soggy and too sweet.

Pair your early meal with a $4 16-ounce draft Sapporo or a discounted glass of sake — or, on Wednesdays, a half-priced bottle of sake. At Bamboo Sushi, you can help save the seas, one happy-hour bite at a time.
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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk