Finding successful sushi in Maine
Growing up in Hawaii, I ate fresh sushi in abundance and went to quality Japanese restaurants almost every week. If I ever found myself craving giant spicy tuna rolls or fresh hamachi, I could just hop in my car or ride my bike down to the nearest sushi spot and grab something to eat while I sat on the beach and soaked up the sun (ever had sushi at the beach before?).
I’m always asked why I decided to change gears and come all the way across the Pacific (and the country to go to school in Maine). During my first few months on the Hill, not even experiencing the beauty of my first real autumn could fill the void of the delicious international food I had waiting for me at home.
Luckily, I discovered Miyake Restaurant in Portland. Four years ago, Miyake was tucked away in a tiny space with a handful of tables cozily squeezed together. Adjacent to the restaurant, customers would buy alcohol to enjoy with their meal at the then unlicensed venue.
Today, thanks to a booming business, the restaurant has moved to a more central location on Fore Street, where seating is plenty and the decor is chic and sleek. I would recommend sitting at the bar so you can strike up a conversation with Masa, the owner and head chef, who works tirelessly at his two restaurants and to keep up his farm.
As I am indecisive, I like to order the omakase (tasting menu) and have Masa choose the selection for the evening.
In the omakase selection, the chefs will usually include a fresh salad lightly covered in a miso dressing, featuring whatever fresh produce Masa has growing at his farm, a local seafood selection that is also accompanied by freshly steamed or gently fried local vegetables and a poultry dish that—as you may have guessed—is also a product of his farm.
The last time I went to Miyake, the seafood selection featured local flounder with steamed baby leeks and crisp golden potatoes and for the poultry he decided on duck, tenderly cooked to perfection and stuffed with shiso (a bitter Japanese herb belonging to the mint family) and savory mushrooms. The last dish is usually a combination of three different types of nigiri sushi topped with fresh fish caught off the coast of Maine.
Like any decent Japanese restaurant, Miyake also has a wide variety of tempting sushi rolls, such as the spicy tuna, Maine lobster rolls and larger entrees selections like Kobe beefand and––of course––more Maine lobster.
If you’re not in the Fore Street area for dinner but would still like to test the tempting tastes of Miyake, head over to Masa’s ramen (noodles) restaurant, Pai men Miyake, which is located on State Street.
Finishing off your meal with a nice, steaming cup of ocha (green tea), you’ll be just about ready to step outside for a nice brisk walk along the water—but not before sneaking a quick glance at whatever other mouth watering concoctions the sushi chefs are whipping up in the kitchen first––you can order them on your next visit.