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A Little of This, A Little of That: Fusion food with the distinct flavor of Bend at 5 Spice 

Fusion food with the distinct flavor of Bend at 5 Spice.

click to enlarge hot_samurai_roll.jpg

When Lilian Chu of Hong Kong Restaurant fame and Soba founder Di Long got together to discuss the concept for their joint venture in Deep's former Wall Street location, I can't imagine there was much argument about the cuisine. Bend's new Asian fusion supergroup went straight for what they do best. Though named for the core seasonings in Chinese cooking, 5 Spice is as fusion as you can get. Pan Asian with a European accent, flavors span the globe, often all on one plate.

Largely unchanged from its Deep days, the space is open and sleek with booths and tables on one side, a large bar area on the other and a sushi bar in the back. Attended by an elite corps (5 Spice received over 500 applications for 25 positions), anywhere you sit, you're almost guaranteed good service. Propelled by a couple hundred years of combined Bend-area restaurant experience among the staff, the owners and ubiquitous local consultant Greg Unruh, 5 Spice is already at the top of its game only weeks out of the gate.

Just as the restaurant is divided into three distinct areas, there are three different menus and several ways to approach a meal here. The regular menu, most appropriately, though not exclusively, enjoyed in the sit-down dining area, offers starters and entrées that are probably most representative of Chef Di Long's versatility. From almost entirely Western dishes like a rich and savory tomato bisque and creamy potato leek soup streaked with pesto to classic Asian plates like seafood dumplings with ginger-soy reduction and miso soup, starters ($3-$10) are varied in style but consistently tasty.

Entrées ($15-$25) like Hibachi Miso Chicken Breast and Shichimi Pepper Sesame Crusted Rack of Lamb are where the fusion really shines. The Pistachio Crusted Mahi Mahi topped with sautéed spinach and served with perfectly cooked coconut rice and a creamy saffron curry sauce offered flavors from at least a couple of cuisines, but the combination seemed meant to be. The signature 5 Spice Beef Tenderloin, seemingly straight-up meat and potatoes, topped with a mission fig and red wine reduction may be the least Asian of the set, but the seasoning of the meat and the glazed baby carrots and marble mashed potatoes that accompanied it gave the dish extra interest.

Another dining option is to sidle up the sushi bar, piloted by former sky chef to Japan Airlines and former owner of Aoba Sushi in Portland, Chef Tetsuo Kuronuma. In addition to traditional nigiri and rolls, there's a very nice selection of specialty options from familiar combinations like the Rainbow Roll to terrific original creations like the Hot Samurai Roll ($12): spicy tuna poke, avocado and cucumber draped with a thick sheet of tuna and topped with a slice of jalapeño filled with a dollop of spicy mayo on each piece. It was delicious. Prices are on the higher end, probably less than Deep before it, but no bargain.

The best value at 5 Spice by far is its excellent happy hour. Most of the traditional sushi rolls, a handful of appetizers from the regular menu, including Drunken Clams swimming in a savory broth spiked with sake, seafood dumplings and crab cakes topped with tropical fruit salsa, as well as several items particular to the happy hour menu like a Filet Mignon Lollipop and Soft Shell Crab Salad are all only $5 from 4 - 6 p.m.

Fusing a staff of skilled servers from the area, great culinary thinking, civic-minded owners who sponsor events to benefit local nonprofits and a dedication to locally produced ingredients, 5 Spice is on the fast track to becoming a hometown favorite.

5 Spice Fusion and Sushi Bar

821 NW Wall St., 323-2328

4 p.m. - close daily; happy hour, 4-6 p.m.

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