July 29, 2012

Dine Out Maine: Japanese buffet a pleasant surprise

By SHONNA MILLIKEN HUMPHREY

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Minami in South Portland features a buffet that includes more than 50 items. Diners also can order from a long menu.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

"DINING REVIEW

MINAMI JAPANESE GRILL

AND SUPREME BUFFET

415 Philbrook Ave.,

South Portland; 619-8338

***

HOURS: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily; dinner, 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

PRICE RANGE: Buffet, $16.95 for dinner and $10.95 for lunch; 200 menu items range from $2.50 to $28, with most entrees in the $10 to $20 range.

BAR: Full bar, with an extensive cocktail menu

CREDIT CARDS: All major

KIDS: Yes, children's menu

VEGETARIAN: Yes. Nice selection of gluten-free options too.

RESERVATIONS: No

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

BOTTOM LINE: Minami offers a value-conscious, if less than authentic, sushi experience convenient to South Portland mall-side shopping. Gauged solely as a buffet, the space is clean, dishes are frequently replenished and the offerings both abundant and unusual.

Ratings follow this scale: * Poor  ** Fair  ***Good   **** Excellent  ***** Extraordinary

While the fried frog legs were tender and -- yes -- tasted like chicken, the bones were too similar to sardine bones for my palate, and the grainy texture prevented me from embracing the experience.

Tokyo Chicken, with its robust barbecue marinade, and crispy battered tempura shrimp rounded out the dining experience.

One of the best aspects of Minami is the beverages -- specifically, the frosty bottles of Kirin Light and Sapporo. I doubt either would appeal to beer enthusiasts, but both were cold and thirst-quenching -- and for a timid palate, perfect entry-level Japanese beer. 

Mixed drinks earned their own extensive menu, as well as warning labels. Minami limits orders of Long Island Iced Teas and Grateful Deads to two per person.

Bargain drinkers take note: On Mondays and Wednesdays, most beer and mixed drinks cost just $1 with any full-priced buffet order. 

As a culinary destination, I cannot endorse Minami without explanation. Nor, given the high quality of sushi competition in the greater Portland area, can I laud the sushi itself. 

But by gauging buffet-restaurant apples to buffet-restaurant apples, Minami shines. And if you find yourself starving near the mall and hankering for a cold Japanese beer, Minami is just fine.

Better than fine, actually.

Minami is a buffet restaurant game-changer.

Shonna Milliken Humphrey is a Maine freelance writer and author of the novel "Show Me Good Land.

 

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