Tag Archives: Kanpai

Boken: Bend’s New Dining ‘Adventure’


Chef Michael Murphy's seared scallop skewers at Boken (photos by Joseph Eastburn)


Boken is the Japanese word for “adventure.”  And that’s what owner Justin Cook intends to give diners at his new restaurant, Boken, which opened today in downtown Bend’s Brooks Street breezeway

“Food should be fun,” says Cook, who perceives Boken as a Japanese izakaya-style bar and grill.

Japanese cities are rife with izakaya — loud, social, late-night whisky bars specializing in a variety of small plates shared by friends after nights on the town.

Justin says that Boken will be less of a bar and more of a restaurant.  To start, it will open 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.  Look for lunches to be added soon.  As summer approaches, times may be further extended to take advantage of the large patio area it shares with the Madhappy Lounge.

Michael Murphy and Justin Cook

Chef Michael Murphy’s menu will focus on the pan-Asian concept, not including sushi.

The main reason is that Cook plans to broaden the sushi offerings at his other Bend restaurant — the Kanpai Sake & Sushi Bar on Newport Avenue.

“Most of our patrons don’t think of Kanpai for anything but sushi,” said Cook.  “And that’s fine.  When we opened Kanpai, we never wanted teriyaki or yakisoba on the menu.  As they are kept separate in Japan, we’d like to keep them separate here.

“So while there will be no sushi at Boken, we will partially adapt the non-sushi menu that we have been serving at Kanpai.” 

Murphy said the menu will feature a variety of Asian small plates, not just Japanese.  Diners can expect to see bold, fresh flavors — grilled plates, quickly prepared from scratch — adapted from such cuisines as Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Korean … and Filipino.

Korean-style kalbi ribs

Filipino?  As it turns out, Boken’s Bend-born chef spent a year and a half in 2007-2009 on the Philippine island of Palawan, working as executive sous chef at all four restaurants of the elite Aman Pulo resort. “Asian culture was always an interest of mine,” Murphy says.  “The Palawan gig sealed the deal.”

His second stop after coming home to Bend was at Kanpai, where Cook hired him last July.  Murphy’s culinary skills were a key factor in the decision to take over the Breezeway café — formerly home to The Downtowner and Lola’s — and open a new restaurant there. 

“I’ve been in love with this space forever,” says Cook. “It’s a perfect example of, ‘Just ask and the universe provides.’

“Downtown Bend has a ton of Asian restaurants, but this one is different.  If you know Portland restaurants, think Ping.  Think Biwa.”

Nothing on the menu, Justin said, is priced more than $14.  And bar manager Michael Eliason, formerly of Portland’s Fenouil restaurant on Jamison Square, promises a creative cocktail list.

Cook, 38, was raised in the surf city of Santa Cruz, Calif.  His love of big waves continues to take him up and down the Pacific coast.   Taught by his mother to love and roll sushi before he was a teen-ager, he became a professional sushi chef in 1992 in Bend, at the original Yoko’s restaurant.

He later studied under Andy Matsuka at the California Sushi Academy and worked in restaurants in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.  Eventually, he returned to Central Oregon and the former Sushimoto restaurant in Sunriver. 

Justin opened Kanpai in 2005.  He said sushi lovers can expect to see the menu there stepped up by summer, promising “delicate fish presentations, carpaccios, sashimi, and more [exotic] fishes.”


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7 Favorite Seafood Dishes in Central Oregon

Oolong tea-glazed sea bass at 5 Fusion

If you’re a seafood lover like me — if you can’t get enough of the ocean’s bounty, from Copper River salmon to Dungeness crab to Willapa Bay oysters — you may sometimes feel frustrated to live hours from the Pacific shoreline.

It’s true that the restaurants of Bend and Deschutes County don’t often get fish pulled directly from the salty brine. But many chefs design menus that take advantage of direct flights and refrigerated trucks, brining fresh seafood to Central Oregon several times a week.

Following is a short personal list of my favorite seafood dishes at Central Oregon restaurants, in no particular order.

Oolong tea-glazed sea bass ($18) at 5 Fusion & Sushi Bar. The sweet, tender white fish, served on fettuccine-style egg noodles tossed with lemon butter, virtually melted in my mouth.  It is presented with a medley of seasonal vegetables, which on my most recent visit included carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, red onions and potatoes. 821 N.W. Wall St., Bend; 541-323-2328, www.bend5spice.com 

Camarones al tequila ($19) at Hola! Wild-caught prawns are wrapped in banana leaves with sliced bananas, red onions and Portobello mushrooms, then baked with chipotle chilies for spice and a splash of reposado tequila for flavor.  I also love Hola’s Peruvian ceviche traditional ($12), made with halibut or tuna marinated in citrus juices and served with aji amarillo (yellow chilies), sweet yams, a Creole salsa and dried corn kernels. The Shops at the Old Mill District, Bend, 541-647-2711; N.E. 27th Ave. and Highway 20 E., Bend, 389-4652; www.holabend.com

Blackened redfish ($25) at Zydeco Kitchen+Cocktails. Rubbed with Steve Helt’s signature cayenne-pepper spice blend, the snapper (or catfish) is pan-fried in butter and served on a bed of sautéed spinach with Dungeness crab meat.  Zydeco’s plump barbecued shrimp ($11) is also memorable, served on grit cake with a savory sauce.  919 N.W. Bond St., Bend; 541-312-2899, www.zydecokitchen.com


Bourbon Street crab cakes

Crab cakes and green bean sauté ($17.95) at Bourbon Street Sea & Soul Food.  Three thick cakes of crab meat, blended with onions and peppers, are lightly breaded with Japanese panko crumbs seasoned with garlic, lemon and tarragon.  They are served on a creative clam chowder — with potatoes, onions, bacon, corn, black-eyed peas and a dash of chili oil — and topped with a half-dozen long green beans.  5 N.W. Minnesota Ave., Bend; 541-323-2833, www.bourbonstreetbend.com

Thai fish soup ($6 and $8) at High Tides Seafood Grill.  There are eight excellent soups and chowders on the menu of Bend’s best seafood restaurant, but none compares to this one.  Halibut is the main ingredient in a spicy broth of curry, lemongrass, basil and coconut milk.  The concoction also has sliced red onions, carrots and tomatoes.  1045 N.W. Bond St., Bend; 541-389-5244, www.hightidesseafoodgrill.com

Calamari ($10) at the Black Butte Ranch Lodge Dining Room.  This is not the heavily breaded and deep fried variety so often served at other restaurants.  Here, strips of mature squid are lightly battered in a garbanzo flour, flash-fried, drizzled with a cilantro pesto and served without a hint of grease on a bed of fresh arugula.  A sweet-and-spicy dipping sauce of mango and chipotle is the finishing touch.  12930 Hawks Beard, Black Butte Ranch; 541-595-1260, www.blackbutteranch.com/dining/

Ahi poke ($17) at Kanpai Sushi and Sake Bar.  Other area chefs have attempted this raw fish dish, but none as successfully as Kanpai’s Justin Cook.  Coarsely chopped yellowfin tuna is marinated in sesame oil and citrus-based ponzu sauce; tossed with scallions, avocado and wakame seaweed; and served with wonton chips. Cook also serves seared diver scallops ($14) with sautéed shiitake mushrooms and a ginger cream sauce. 990 N.W. Newport Ave., Bend; 541-388-4636, www.kanpai-bend.com


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