When a friend says, “Let’s go out for sushi,” I don’t typically think, “Great idea, let’s head to the area next to Maine Mall!”
That all changed, however, the night a friend and I visited Kobe Buddha House, located right outside the mall next to Tuscan Table. (Kobe also has locations in Biddeford and Bangor.)
The bar is in a separate room from the restaurant, and the décor is sleek and sophisticated, a mix of rustic and Asian accents, perfect for date night. The barstools were cushioned and comfortable, with backs, and there was a ledge underneath the bar for purses, plus a few hooks.
When we looked at the menus, my friend and I were delighted to learn that we happened to be there during what Kobe calls Crazy Tokyo, a happy hour menu on steroids. Served Tuesday through Thursday from 4-8 p.m., it includes select appetizers for half the regular price and $4.85 cocktails, so you now know where you can find me mid-week.
My friend ordered the saketini, a martini made with vodka, sake and artistic strips of peeled cucumber. Seriously, that drink was fun just to look at! I tasted it and came close to spitting it out, which means it was perfectly made, since I detest sake. (My friend, the sake lover, said it was fabulous, so my instincts were spot on.) I went with the peachtini, aka “mommy’s favorite juice.” I believe it consisted of vodka, peach and happiness.
Off to a great start, we ordered three items off the food menu: the $4.75 Brussels sprouts with peanut jalapeno yuzu dressing, the $7.50 Kobe salmon bomb (torched salmon with spicy lobster salad, jalapeno and ponzu), and – since we were there to try out the bar – the aptly named $8.35 Manhattan, a sushi roll containing shrimp tempura, spicy tuna tempura flakes, scallion and tobiko (roe).
All three portions were generous. We loved the crunchy Manhattan (which would have paired perfectly with its namesake drink), and the salmon bomb was tasty, but the clear winner was the Brussels sprouts, which both of us declared by far the best Brussels sprouts we’d ever eaten, anywhere. Despite the yuzu, they didn’t taste particularly Asian, but they were phenomenal.
The regular drink menu is extensive, featuring 15 specialty cocktails, five sakes, three $6 house wines by Woodbridge, six white wines by the glass ($7 to $9), four red wines by the glass ($7 to $9), $8 sangria and nine draft beers, mostly local, starting at $4.
The same goes for the dinner menu, which offers not only a wide variety of sushi, but also hibachi and other Asian (not strictly Japanese) entrees, most of which are reasonably priced. For example, the $20 Sumo Combo Platter comes with rice, salad, miso soup, grilled filet mignon and jumbo shrimp, with the steak and shrimp smothered in a mushroom and onion sauce and served on soba noodles. The menu also includes several lunch specials, such as bento boxes for $10 to $15, hibachi lunch for $9.50 to $15 (served with salad, soup and fried rice) and platters like orange chicken for $9.50 to $12 (served with miso soup salad, and rice).
I’ll Ko-be back! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
WHERE: 380 Gorham Road, South Portland
PHONE: (207) 535-3822
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
AMENITIES: Fantastic happy hour specials Tuesday through Thursday 4-8 p.m. and a menu that offers something for everyone. And did I mention the insanely delicious Brussels sprouts?
BOTTOM LINE: Don’t come here if you hate eating delicious Asian food and drinking cocktails in a beautiful setting.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes