There was a time, not even a decade ago, when sushi was still an exotic novelty in the Bangor area. When the idea of eating raw fish — even in a place like Maine, home to some of the best seafood in the world — was a foreign concept to some people.
Those days are thankfully behind us. There are lots of options to get sushi of all sorts in the region, from classic favorites like Spicy Tuna and Alligator rolls, to creative fusion rolls with all sorts of different ingredients.
Here are five places to sate your sushi craving.
For many years the only Japanese restaurant in eastern Maine, Ichiban opened in 1999 and was for a long time a destination for sushi lovers for miles around. Though the number of places to get sushi in the area has proliferated in the past decade, Ichiban has remained reliably solid.
There’s a huge variety of rolls with creative flavor combinations, from old standards to fresh interpretations like the Black Pearl (eel, sweet potato tempura, cucumber and tobiko), the Inferno (tuna, scallions, tempura flakes, hot peppers and chili sauce) and the Ume Shiso (plum and shiso, a savory herb). All the classic noodles, katsu, teriyaki, appetizers and salads are also on the menu.
Yoshi opened in 2009 with a then-novel feature: tatami seating, in which the diners sit in a raised area, with table-sized squares cut into the floor. Add to that the cozy ambience and cheerful staff, and it’s just a nice place to eat (or get takeout).
Yoshi does sushi favorites right, with fresh, artfully displayed maki, nigiri and sashimi, as well as tasty appetizers like crunchy, savory jicama rolls and crispy scallion pancakes, and a few non-Japanese dishes, including some of the best Pad Thai in eastern Maine. It also offers take out Banh Mi sandwiches and bubble tea.
Nearly six years after it opened near the Bangor Mall, the lively, bustling Kobe is still jam-packed almost every weekend, with customers there for both the hibachi seating and performing chefs, and for regular sit-down dining. Kobe has a gigantic menu full of Chinese and Japanese hot appetizers and entrees, as well as sushi.
Kobe’s specialty is big, colorful sushi rolls — the kind where one is enough for most people. In fact, it claims its Tokyo Monster roll (shrimp tempura, pink soybeans, scallops, parmesan, crabmeat, sauteed onion and caviar) is the biggest sushi roll in Maine. It has great cocktails, too.
Though Oriental Jade has for decades been known primarily for its Chinese food, in the past few years the restaurant has undergone a major renovation, and now also offers a full menu of sushi.
The OJ very well may have the most creative sushi in town, with wildly flavored maki rolls like the Tuna Kimchi Roll, Taka’s Veggie Basil Roll (something vegetarian sushi lovers should not miss), and the Sushi Burrito, which is exactly what it sounds like: Tuna or salmon (or both) and all sorts of other tasty fillings and sauces, wrapped inside nori.
All those sushi options, plus lots of other fun menu items, are available at the adjoining Bangor Beer Company, a laid-back, hip brewery that opened late in 2017. Bangor Beer’s also got bao buns and ramen — as well as pinball and Donkey Kong.
Green Tea, 11 Bangor Mall Boulevard, 262-6288
Green Tea’s eye-catching, rainbow-colored light display on the outside of the building stands in contrast to the relaxed, homey vibe inside. This Bangor Mall-area restaurant offers a wide array of affordable Chinese and Japanese dishes, including a long list of big rolls and a fun selection of vegetarian options, as well as well as salads and katsu entrees.
The cocktails are well made, and for hot dishes, the Mei Fun noodles are a good bet, and the Sexy Jalapenos appetizer — kind of a Japanese-style jalapeno popper — is a can’t miss.
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