When the craving for mai tais and sushi strikes, the only course of action is to get in the car and drive until you find them. There’s a good chance you’ll end up at Kon Asian Bistro.
Visitors to Kon on Brighton Avenue in Portland are immediately greeted with a giant golden Buddha statue upon entry, which sets the decorative tone of the place. Red walls, low lights and golden and yellow accents create an opulent yet swanky atmosphere for gorging on sushi or hibachi, Kon’s two main menu offerings.
Seeking drinks more than food, I set my sights on the bar, which is located on the left side of the restaurant. Even at 8 p.m. on a weeknight, it was completely packed, so I settled for a nearby high-top to take in the sights and sounds of the lounge area.
The bar top itself emits a yellow glow, which complements the blood red walls and similar lighting behind the vast array of top-shelf liquor bottles on display. The overall vibe was very “Fifth Element” (and thus very relevant to my interests). The demographic was a true melting pot: families, couples on dates, strangers on dates and singles.
The beverage selection is fittingly decadent. In addition to old standbys like wine ($7 to $8 per glass, also sold by the bottle) and beer (drafts for $4.50, bottles for $3.50), Kon offers a wide variety of sake for those looking for something more authentic to go with their sushi or hibachi.
For the truly dedicated revelers, there are two different types of scorpion bowls. The flaming scorpion bowl will set you back $18.99 (for two people, $10 for a single serving), but the perfect storm of vodka, gin, dark rum, light rum and a flaming shot of Bacardi 151 should help to ease your mind, if not erase it completely. If you’re looking for a little less fire in your bowl-centric cocktail, opt for the fishbowl ($11.99 for one person, $28.99 for two).
While they’ve made it a point to have a little of something for everyone, the focus is on mixed drinks and cocktails. Ever the sucker for fruit punch, I got the regular mai tai ($7.50), which, in addition to being delicious and pleasing to the eye, also packed a punch with its combo of light rum, dark rum and triple sec. Wowza.
Kon’s happy hour runs seven days a week from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., making it feasible for 9-to-5ers to get a couple drinks. Specials on beer and wine in addition to the $5 martini of the day make this a hugely popular after-work spot, so be prepared for the possibility of standing room only. There are also appetizers for $3.50.
The bar at Kon is good fun for anyone in the mood for strong drinks, exotic cocktails and a glitzy atmosphere. While the bar itself is often crowded, there’s plenty of auxiliary seating nearby, so grab a friend or a date for a swanky night of flaming drinks and people watching.
WHERE: 1140 Brighton Ave., Portland
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
AMENITIES: Gigantic bar with beer, wine, drafts and any mixed drink you could dream up, nearby sushi bar, lounge area, happy hour all week long, daily drink specials, opulent decor.
BOTTOM LINE: The bar at Kon Asian Bistro is worth a visit for the spectacle alone. It’s high- impact, Asian-inspired decor will set the mood for any kind of outing you might be having: date night, drinks with friends or a family dinner out. The well-made cocktails and extensive mai tai selection also make a compelling case for a return visit.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes