Shima Sushi Restaurant: First Impressions
Shima, located at 339 Fore Street, Portland, ME, opened on September 30th, 2009, after chef David left a local Japanese restaurant. Shima resides in the same space the fallen Siam occupied for along time (I never wrote about it but I thought their food was delicious). Shima shows signs of a new restaurant with a slight lack of focus, plenty of ambition, and a struggle with consistency - but I encourage everyone to try it for themselves. The menu is Japanese-French-Hawaiian fusion.
I got the privilege of interacting with guests sitting at the sushi bar, all whom raved about Shima. Personally, I was disappointed with the sushi selection. Even though one could order directly at the bar, the formal process is paper slips reminiscent of all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants in other parts of the country. Aside from the sushi slips, the full menu is divided into appetizers, two sushi dinners, and a-la-carte items.
The selection of fish contains all of the staples, but no speciality items - outside of a $60 single serving of Kobe beef. It may sound expensive but Kobe beef can easily cost twice as much - in Japan. The sushi menu itself is relatively low priced; Chef David has secured good deals on fresh fish from New York. To an extent, that's disappointing to me because I rather support local businesses.
The same, however, cannot be said about the prices in the rest of the menu. The restaurant features a number of a-la-carte options including spare ribs and king crab. I tried the spare ribs, which were more fat than rib. They were well seasoned and delicious, but not something I would order again.
On many levels Shima appears to have a menu for the masses juxtaposed against a small and intimate dining room; well almost. The huge liquor storage area, not really a bar, is an eyesore. In fact, the alcohol selection appears to be for a full-scale bar, certainly excessive. Even the sake selections are broad and unfocused.
In the end, my check was about $70, which included a bottle of sake. I am torn because it's not very expensive for high quality sushi, yet it seems over-priced for what was served. Shima may become a contender in the Old Port, but for now it is not near the top. My favorites are Miyake and Benkay, for two very different reasons. The rest I tried and never felt compelled to come back to. I will likely re-visit Shima in a few months to check on its progress, but I doubt it will become a favorite anytime soon.