BANGOR, Maine — It’s going to be about five months before he gets cooking, but Kobe Japanese grill and sushi bar owner-operator Andy Chen is bringing Japanese steakhouse fare to Bangor.
“Japanese hibachi cooking and sushi are our specialties,” said Chen, a Massachusetts native whose family has been involved in running restaurants for more than three decades. “It’s authentic Asian food with fusion cooking and a healthy approach using organic ingredients. No MSG.”
Despite the name and its speciality, Kobe will not be serving Kobe beef, which is not even exported to the United States. Chen will be using local beef for his dishes.
Chen, who said he has been planning his expansion into Bangor for about a year, expects to be open for business by late August or early September.
The term hibachi refers to a style of cooking in which grills or hot plates are incorporated into tables around which diners sit while the cook prepares their meals in front of them. The correct terminology is actually teppanyaki cooking, which incorporates flair, stunts and theatrics.
“Hibachi’s very interactive and people have a good time when they’re here,” said Donna Pitcher, restaurant manager and head bartender at Kobe’s original Biddeford location, which opened two years ago. “It’s a huge draw due to the fire and flair the chefs bring to their cooking style.”
The new Bangor restaurant will be Chen’s third restaurant, but only the second Kobe Japanese steakhouse. The other is the Minami interactive sushi buffet restaurant, which opened in Portland a year ago.
The new Bangor eatery will be located at a new business mall development — between Walmart and the Country Inn — alongside the intersection of Stillwater Avenue and Hogan Road.
Kobe will have a 200-person capacity and feature 12 separate hibachi grill cooking stations spread around the restaurant. Chen says he will start off with a staff of about 15, with half of them working on a part-time basis.
Hours of operation will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Chen who has spent about 20 of his 30-something years working in the restaurant business, has been living in Maine for 10 years. While his parents’ restaurants were not teppanyaki style, he eventually gravitated toward it.
“As hibachi got more popular, it drew me in,” he explained. “My partners started out with this down south. You guys have quite a few Asian restaurants in this area, but no hibachi-type places.”
As far as the menu goes, it’s about as diverse as you can find, according to Pitcher.
“We have a wide range and it’s almost a fusion approach with all the popular Asian dishes we do, like orange chicken, coconut shrimp, broccoli beef, Japanese salmon, shrimp, scallop, chicken and rib-eye steak bento boxes, pad thai, house rice dishes, smoked salmon, the hibachi dishes and our sushi,” said Pitcher.
Pitcher said Kobe is virtually three places in one: a sushi bar, a steakhouse and a bar with a nightclub atmosphere.
“All three areas are popular, but the hibachi area has become the birthday capitol in this area [Biddeford],” said Pitcher. “There are no less than 30 birthday celebration dinners going on here on any typical Saturday. It’s become a fun place to be, and Kobe is ready to generate that same excitement in Bangor.”