Elevation Sushi and Tacos is not, for the most part, a fusion restaurant. Kim Morton, Mike Perez, and their son-in-law John Dexter all moved from the Los Angeles metro to western Maine in the past several years. “The things we really missed were sushi and street tacos,” says Morton, a schoolteacher who used to have her own restaurant. So, when they opened a small place together in Bridgton last summer, they devoted one section of the menu to sushi and another to tacos. There are tuna rolls, salmon, and California rolls. Then, there are steak tacos, chicken tacos, and pork tacos. All the classics from both genres. However, there are also sushi tacos.
Minimal menu notes — “tuna poke tacos with microgreens” — leave, perhaps, too much to the imagination: cold tuna dressed in salsa and wedged into warm corn tortillas came to mind. Nevertheless, when sushi tacos are offered at a restaurant specializing in sushi and tacos, one must give them a shot. They turned out to be the most memorable dish of a recent outing, in only good ways. The shells were not warm, thankfully, and were in fact not tortillas at all. Rather, Dexter, who previously worked as a sushi chef in LA, had decided on wonton wrappers, folded and fried. Ruby-red pieces of tuna were laid within the crispy shells and topped simply with a dab of spicy mayonnaise, peppery snippets of micro cilantro, and thin slivers of red onion. It was the architecture of a taco applied to the flavors of sushi, and the cumulative effect was bright, refreshing, and, most of all, surprising. Sushi nachos are on the menu as well — these sounded like a bridge too far on a first visit, but they’re in the queue for next time.
Elevation Sushi and Tacos
103 Main St., Bridgton. 207-803-8752.
Sushi $7–$17; tacos $10.
In warmer months, the front patio is a fine perch from which to take in the hustle and bustle of Bridgton’s Main Street.
Grab and Go
For an easy-to-carry meal, Elevation also serves hand rolls — sheets of nori rolled into cones and stuffed with all the usual sushi fixings.
Most sushi at Elevation is not taco-shaped. The Sebastian roll, for instance, comprises soft-shell crab, asparagus, and avocado rolled inside rice and doused with eel sauce and garlic ponzu sauce. That in itself would be plenty of heft and flavor, but the roll is also topped with a long pearlescent strip of seared albacore. I found myself occasionally picking off the albacore; its texture was so perfectly silky I had to enjoy it on its own. The Caterpillar roll felt generously proportioned too, filled with seared eel and cucumber and topped with copious slices of avocado and a drizzle of eel sauce. The relatively simple spicy tuna roll, meanwhile, showcased the underlying quality — beautiful hunks of fish, rice that’s sticky enough to hold together yet pleasantly fluffy, an artistic dappling of black sesame seeds, freshly pickled ginger, and piquant wasabi.
Most of the sauces, from the ponzu to the salsa that comes with tortilla chips, are made in-house, and when the owners can source something locally, they will. The microgreens come from Morton and Perez’s neighbor, the lobster and sea urchin come from Maine waters, and the meats used in the non-sushi tacos come from Maine farms. The pork tacos start with a slow-cooked slab of belly that’s pulled and then griddled, rendering out some additional fat and crisping the edges. The supple corn tortillas are made daily. A creamy slaw adds crunch. And a pineapple salsa, spiced up with habanero, makes for a play on traditional tacos al pastor, typically made with grilled pork and diced pineapple.
Drinks too fall on either the Japanese or Mexican side of things, from sake to margaritas. Sake with tacos? Margs with sushi? No wrong answers there, although a margarita seems like a fine choice after a sun-drenched day on one of the lakes around Bridgton. To keep up with the summer rush after last year’s opening, Dexter had to start training Perez, who recently retired from a 30-year career with a national car-battery distributor, on sushi prep. This summer, the menu is expanding, with Japanese fried chicken, vegetable and shrimp tempura, and beef teriyaki becoming regulars. Two more varieties of sushi tacos are joining too, one with yellowtail and the other with salmon.
There’s something admittedly jarring, at least at first, about jumping between Mexican and Japanese flavors in one sitting. I’d almost be inclined to pick a lane and stick to it on each visit — but just almost. In fact, maybe even more fusion is in order? Merely spitballing here, but why not, say, wrap that slow-cooked pork inside sushi rice, with some black beans, and then top it with spicy pineapple salsa and microgreens? If sushi tacos can turn out delicious, I’m more than willing to give taco rolls a try.