The world's first certified sustainable sushi restaurant opens a Seattle location and extends its eco-friendly values to the design.
By Rachel Gallaher
Photographed by Lara Swimmer
In October, Bamboo Sushi, the world’s first certified sustainable sushi restaurant, opened a new location in Seattle’s University Village.
Founded in Portland in 2008, the restaurant took on the challenge of full, transparent sustainability from the start, receiving its certification from the Green Restaurant Association. This means that, among other things, Bamboo Sushi sources fish from plentiful populations, considers the environmental impact of how and where the fish are caught and the associated carbon footprint. The company also plants native seagrass to sequester carbon and enhance marine environments. But it’s not just the culinary realm where sustainability is a top priority.
“While the sustainable sourcing of our fish is what Bamboo Sushi was built on, we’ve made it a priority to let our values of environmental and social good extend to all aspects of the restaurant, from how we operate our kitchens to the materials and furniture in the space,” says Cory Schisler, creative director of Bamboo’s parent company, Sustainable Restaurant Group. “We make a lot of considerations in how we source these pieces. This includes the carbon footprint of a certain item, the integrity of the manufacturer, and the use of innovative recycled materials.”
When it comes to the design, Schisler emphasizes that it’s driven by the idea of giving guests as many opportunities to engage with the restaurant’s sustainability mission as possible. The existing layout of the new location, in a former Blue C Sushi eatery, determined the placement of the sushi bar and the liquor bar. “We were left with one massively open space that needed to be split up to create more unique experiences for our guests,” Schisler recalls. “Since we have a wide appeal that lends itself to different types of dining, from a high-end omakase experience at the sushi bar to a casual happy hour amongst friends, I thought about the design of each space differently. As you walk in the main doors, you get this cool visual from left to right of the five distinct spaces.”
At one end sits a private dining room with operable fluted glass window panels that allow the space to open up to the main dining room when not booked for an event. Glass windows and assorted potted plants give the space a greenhouse-like feel and the five tables, which can be combined to create one large table that seats up to 16, are crafted from a single black walnut tree. Cloudlike Molo pendants soften the aesthetic and give the room a very organic feel.
Central to the restaurant is the U-shaped sushi bar, where guests can sit and watch the chefs slice up Albacore tuna, mackerel, and salmon. The rich dark brown wood bar and the emerald green zellige tile from Clé Tile add subtle drama and a hand-painted mural by Seattle tattoo artists Kyler Martz depicts the Ama divers of Japan—these women have been diving for pearls as well as seafood to support their communities for 2,000 to 3,000 years. “We had a lot of wall space to play with, giving us a ton of opportunities to have fun,” Schisler notes. “I want a guest to walk in and see immediately that we’re not like other sushi restaurants, but still have a few nods to Japanese culture they’re used to seeing when eating at a sushi restaurant.”
In the liquor bar, white oak ceiling paneling flows into a wall covering, and above the booths hang a series of photographs by Corey Arnold, a National Geographic –published photographer and professional fisherman dedicated to sustainability in the industry. Other regional artists and craftspeople tapped for the project include LR Design Co (the company crafted the walnut-and-steel screens throughout, as well as the host stand, various benches and tables in the private dining area), and Kate Blairstone (her custom seascape wallpaper in the bathroom is a vibrant contrast to the tranquil dining areas). Furniture is sourced from Danish brand Mater. “Mater incorporates waste into all of our dining chairs,” Schisler says. “The Nova dining chair is made of recycled excess pieces of beech veneer, sliced and glued together that creates this textural and organic looking surface. On the patio, the Ocean Chair is crafted from recycled fishnets and recycled hard plastic…because we’re so driven by our mission, it needs to seep into every aspect of the guest experience, encouraging guests to notice the difference and open up to a conversation about what we do.”