by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop
Ever since I was introduced to the intoxicatingly delicious and downright seductive off-the-menu fare at 5 Fusion, I’ve yearned to repeat the experience. While some people dream of sugar-plums dancing in their heads, my dreams were of delicate slices of ivory salmon served in a glass fish bowl draped atop a large black stone and perfumed by lemongrass-scented cold smoke that curled up the sides of the bowl.
There are only two words to describe 5 Fusion executive chef and co-owner Joe Kim: culinary genius. If you’ve eaten his food, you already have a sense of his talent. But if you haven’t tried the Chef’s Tasting Menu (five to seven courses—either raw or cooked—for $55) or Joe’s “off the menu menu” for which you can establish a price cap when ordering, you haven’t begun to experience what he can do in a kitchen.
Our other-worldly off the menu dinner began with corn, black truffle and tapioca push-pops. The last time I had a push-pop it was strawberry flavored and I was seven. I won’t wait as long to have another, as long as it has the same deliciously savory, velvety, earthy richness of the one Joe served. “This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever eaten,” one of my dining companions said. “This could make me give up on trying to have a body,” another added. The unanimous conclusion: crazy, ridiculously good.
A caprese salad served Joe-style followed, complete with heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella spheres that looked like white egg yolks and oozed white creaminess when punctured. Olive oil powder resembling grated parmesan and balsamic pearls that looked like caviar took the dish over the top.
Speaking of caviar, Joe served us Toro tartare and Blue fin tartare topped with tiny, raw quail egg yolks and accompanied by sturgeon caviar, rice caviar and soy caviar. “I think I’m in love with Joe,” I told my friends. And that was before the foie gras hit, along with little demitasse cups of foiepaccino, a play on cappuccino in which espresso coffee, foie gras and cream are cooked together and then transformed into foam. The foiepaccino was crazy enough. But the foie gras wasn’t just any foie gras. One slice was done peanut-butter-and-jelly style (I’m serious!) while the other was served atop sweet-chili granola, Joe’s tongue-in-cheek nod to those who object to foie gras being served at all.
Next we each enjoyed a small, spicy (raw) tuna taco with a rice cracker shell, which was presented in a paper wrapper inside a small wooden box. Absolutely Iron Chef worthy in terms of originality, taste and presentation.
The next course, vanilla-infused lobster risotto with bacon and peas ringed with a drizzle of chimuchurri sauce, made all four of us remember that food really can be as good as—or even better than—sex. “Joe isn’t the kind of guy who toots his own horn, but toot, toot!” announced one of my tablemates.
Assuming that the risotto was the big finale, we ate accordingly. Wrong! A Parisian gnocchi carbonara followed, with profiteroles taking the place of pasta. Our gluten-intolerant friend’s dish featured rice noodles instead of the profiteroles. Then we moved on to sweet and savory uni (sea urchin roe) crème brulee served with pickled ginger. “That’s perfect,” said the friend to my right, even though she had announced that she was full after the risotto.
We still weren’t done. A small round of pan-seared ivory salmon served with pan-seared shaved asparagus and wasabi-apple crème fraiche hit next, followed by Asian Wagyu Beef Wellington ringed with potato puree and black bean and garlic sauce.
We crossed the finish line of this extravagant gastronomic marathon with two desserts, my favorite being a deconstructed apple crisp served inside a curled macadamia nut tuile, with an apple semifreddo and homemade heath bar crumbles.
The word fusion has been overused to the point that it’s almost meaningless. But at 5 Fusion, Joe delivers on the promise inherent in the word’s true definition: the merging of different elements into a sublime union. The fact is that with his out-of-this-world creativity and talent, Joe belongs on the big culinary stage. Take advantage of his being in Bend before the rest of the world discovers him, because they will.
821 NW Wall Street; Bend
Owners: Lillian & Mike Chu,
Tobin Zhou, Joe Kim
Hours: 11:30 to 2pm weekdays
Dinner from 4 to close daily
Happy Hour from 4 to 6 daily