Super Bowl and sushi, nontraditional mix in Twin Cities

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In the ticket-only event, patrons were given the opportunity to spend the game at Orchid. For $45, they were treated to an array of Asian fusion food, served all-you-can-eat buffet style throughout the entire game.

By 6 p.m., fans had already filled in the bar area as owner Minh Nguyen and his staff began bringing out platters of food, filling a long center table in the dining room.

Among those at the bar were Remi and Betsy Gilbert of Sabattus, who sipped drinks and chatted with staff and other patrons.

“It would have been a lot better if it were the Patriots,” Betsy said with a laugh. As a consolation, she said family in the Seattle area has changed her loyalties for the evening, and she would be rooting for the Seahawks.

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Gilbert said it was just fun to get out with friends. She and her husband, Remi, are also big fans of Orchid’s food.

“Everything they have here is great,” she said.

At a glance, it appeared the Gilberts had brought all their friends with them. People around the two-thirds-full dining room shook hands, hugged and were warmly greeted by the owner, Nguyen.

Guests filled their plates with Thai-inspired dishes like Sriracha wings, Orchid calamari and chicken satay.

Nguyen said his crew cooked almost their entire menu in preparation for the game. A full array of sushi was served, including spicy tuna, yellowtail sashimi and sweet potato rolls.

The event was a first for the 8-month-old restaurant.

“It’s the Super Bowl,” Nguyen said. “You want to do something — I thought it would be a good idea.”

Concurring that many at the gathering know each other at least as regulars, Nguyen decided that he would take a spin on the traditional idea of friends gathering at a home to watch the game. After all, he was already working anyway.

All angles of the dining room were covered with three large screens above the bar, and one front and center in the dining room. There were no bad seats in the house.

Turnout was greater than Nguyen expected; however, he was pleased to host such a group of friends.

“This is a good crowd,” he said. “Some come once a week, some come two, three times a week.”

Laughing about the amount of food set out for the price, Nguyen said, “You can only get kind of like this in Vegas.”

Speaking of his fusion menu and how he came to incorporate different traditions, Nguyen said, “We wanted people that like Thai to come in and maybe get them to eat sushi.”

 Nguyen said he wanted to debunk the myth that sushi was simply raw fish.

Originally from San Jose, Calif., Nguyen said he came out to help a friend get Bua Thai & Sushi on Sabattus Street up and running.

He said in finding a location for his own restaurant, he wanted something easily accessible for lunch and dinner. “I think downtown is growing, and that’s why we picked downtown.”

There were also unofficial rumors of a betting pool among diners as mysterious boxed sheets lay in front of them like scribbled place mats.

A few blocks away, at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, a different celebration was taking place.

There, members of the Life Team, a national Catholic organization for teens and young adults, were gathered from the Prince of Peace Parish.

Director of Faith Formation Patrick Finn of Lewiston was in charge of the gathering of about 17 adolescents. He said they put the event together in a week after an informal poll among the youth showed overwhelming interest.

The biggest obstacle, Finn said, was that the old basilica made of stone was less- than-Internet friendly, causing him to string untold feet of Internet cable through the structure.

Kids munched on traditional Super Bowl foods, such as wings, nachos and pizza. Some stayed, glued to the game in a room with a projection screen streaming the game.

Others gathered in a brightly lit room to socialize, chat with adults and be ever- close to the refreshments.

Jacob Ouellette, 15, of Lewiston was rooting for Seattle because the Broncos had beaten the Patriots.

Organizer Jeff Albert announced to the room, “Twenty-two to nothing — take that, Manning!”

Brother Tyler Tracey said he was rooting for the Seahawks.

“I don’t want Manning to win,” he explained.

Finn reluctantly admitted that, even in church, forgiveness is hard to find when it comes to the Patriots.

Around the refreshment table, Tracey was having a conversation with a group about communicating with those of other faiths.

A member of the group, Catherine Perron, 14, of Sumner, said she was mostly there to spend some time with her friend, Greg Dube of Lewiston.

Perron said that she had some interest in watching the game.

“I wanted to watch but found football boring,” she said.

A last-minute Bronco fan, Perron said she was rooting for the logo, as she liked the horse more than the Seahawk.

In the room with the game, the Rev. Nathan March boisterously kept the kids entertained, shouting at plays or commercials. At one point, he danced around, ringing a loud bell.

Albert summed up the night for the entire group.

“Faith, fun, friends and food,” he said. 

dmcintire@sunjournal.com

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