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Sake Bomb, Durham, NC

I rode by today and noticed that the sign was lit on the new Sake Bomb on University Dr. This is in the old Eastern Lights location.

Has anyone been yet? It was slated to open this month and looks like it is open. Supposed to serve sushi, Vietnamese and Thai food. I'm very curious about this new place.

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  1. I haven't been there yet, but I live really close to Sake Bomb so I'll probably try it out soon. Their website seems to indicate that they're offering Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese (sushi) entrees.


    Personally, I'm glad to have some Vietnamese options closer to my house, but I'm a little worried that this might be a "jack of all trades" kinda place.

    1. Went today for lunch. As far as the interior renovation, all I can say is wow. What a transformation. The colors are a mix of gray, browns, black and burgundy. There is a full bar to the left which is huge. We counted around 25 bar stools and six bar tables plus other seating. I like the minimalist decor. Very big city feeling. On the other side of the entrance, there is a large sushi bar and dining room. There are four TVs above the bar, but I didn't find them intrusive. I was a little nonplussed by the large crystal chandelier in the entrance way but loved the tile walls. A mix of jazz, big band, etc. was playing in the background.

      Husband and I shared the pork dumplings. Six nice dumplings with a tasty dipping sauce (not too heavy on the soy sauce) for 5.00. While they were standard pork dumplings, we both really enjoyed them. The wrapper was light and tender and the filling was nicely flavored. They were way better than many I've had in the area. I took advantage of the two for one sushi offer and had an eight piece eel roll and the shrimp tempura roll. Presentation was nice, sushi tasted fresh and my only quibble would be there didn't seem to be a lot of tempura batter on my shrimp roll and maybe the rolls were a tad bit loose. But, I enjoyed both of them.

      Husband had the lunch special of basil eggplant chicken which came with an egg roll for 8.00. The portion was generous (he actually took a little home) and he liked it. I found it a tad sweet and would probably up the heat a little.

      Service was excellent and staff was very friendly. The manager came out to check on us and really seemed to want to know what we thought of the food. We did mention that the egg roll needed improvement, and he said they were working on it.

      The menu is extensive though there are not as many items listed under the lunch special as some places. Some of the regular entrees seemed to be priced pretty high, but the only price I can remember is pho for $10 a bowl (the bowl was enormous).

      I want to go back and see what the Vietnamese dishes are like.

      I wish them well, and hope they succeed but am a little concerned about the broad range of the menu.

      1. The N&O Deal Saver has a pay $10 get $20 of food offer for Sake Bomb. See offer at:


        1. It got a favorable post on Carpe Durham.


          Apparently it is somehow related to Sushi Love and Shiki Sushi. I'm not a fan of either of those, but if Sake Bomb turns out to be good, I'll be delighted. I have to say, the Carpe Durham post made me pretty hungry.

          It should be noted there IS some pretty exceptional sushi in this part of town. Kurama has, in my view, the best sushi in Durham. But they REALLY need to do something about their decor, which has not been updated since around 1983. I'm being serious, I had a high school friend who worked there. Same interior, but now it is old, battered, and depressing. But I still encourage you to try it, especially for sushi takeout.

          2 Replies
          1. re: durhamois

            So agree with you about Kurama's location and decor. I'm not fussy about that stuff-- for example, Gourmet Kingdom's lack of decor doesn't really bother me-- but Kurama is down right dreary. There are at least 3 new projects that may serve as new locations for them.

            Saw a blurb in Durham magazine that there may finally be some movement at the vacant plaza across the street from them. They are finally razing the motel and old repair shop next to the Police station on Chapel Hill St. My understanding is that new apartments and retail space will be built there. And of course new retail space will be available soon on Ninth Street where George's Garage used to be.

            1. re: durhamois

              Never had Kurama but Momoyama has really good sushi.

            2. I ordered takeout from them yesterday. The food tasted exactly like what you would expect from Shiki Sushi or Sushi Love. Nothing exceptional, but it was all fine. I'll be sticking to Kurama for takeout.

              I would say, however, that the vibe inside is pretty great. I can see meeting friends out for cocktails and a little sushi at the bar. I wouldn't travel across town for it or anything, but if you are in the area, and you want to sit someplace fun and get a little Asian food, I think you could do worse.

              17 Replies
              1. re: durhamois

                N&O's Deal Saver has a deal going for this place.

                1. re: bbqme

                  Also their sushi rolls are 2 for one, even with takeout. Of course their prices are kinda jacked up, but still comes out to an alright deal.

                  1. re: bbqme

                    What do you hear about University Place (the plaza next to Target)? I checked Durham magazine online, but couldn't find anything

                    The development on Chapel Hill St by the police station is, in my mind, really important. That corridor is really THE gateway into downtown, and if they put up a cool building with retail, that would be terrific for that whole area.

                    1. re: durhamois

                      I saw a blurb in Durham magazine (hardcopy) that an investment group from Charlotte was securing funding to get the University Place project moving. But the group was reluctant to provide an definitive comments so I'd be guarded in my optimism for that project.

                      I work near the Chapel Hill St. project. The old hotel is now completely razed and cleared! The rumor I've heard is that there is a multi-storied townhouse complex going in there, like the ones that have been built in Chapel Hill. Don't know if there will be any retail, or even better, eatery space. I sure hope so. One thing sorely missing in the downtown area is quick, grab-and-go options-- pizza by the slice, ready-made sandwiches and soups, salad bar, etc., ideal for busy lunch goers.

                      I'm really stoked about the Ninth St. project. There will be a lot of retail/eatery space available there and Harris Teeter will serve as a great anchor for them. After HT left the Northgate Mall area there has been a dearth of grocery options in the downtown area.

                      1. re: bbqme

                        I don't consider Northgate downtown. Harris Teeter may become a Publix in due time but I think it is an eyesore to that community and that type of area. That being said, if a major grocery store were needed, there isn't really any other space in the area that I can think of for it to go. Whole foods offers the same items, if not more than HT, but right now they are working on their expansion.

                        Speaking of which.. Whole Foods offers to go items and so does 9th Street Bakery, Scratch, Bull Street Catering, and I think Beyu does. I could be wrong about all these but they seem like they would have some options and if nothing else most places should have call ahead so that you can get your order without having to wait... no?

                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                          I didn't say Northgate was downtown, rather that it was nearest to the downtown area. The only options for people living in that area are Compare, King's Red & White and Whole Foods-- and Food Lion if you're will to drive another few miles down on Hillsborough St. (I despise Food Lion). HT would fill that "middle ground" of grocery stores that's missing now.

                          Whole Foods expansion has been finished for quite awhile now. The expansion was mainly to add grab-and-go options and expanding the seating area. I think Chapel Hill's F expansion was better.

                          As for the other stores you mentioned I would only consider bread and coffee beans that they sell as grocery items. I consider them more as eateries. Also, except for Beyu, they close by 4-5PM.

                          1. re: bbqme

                            I was referring to them as grab and go options not grocery stores sorry I wasn't clear. Yeah I heard yesterday that the expansion wasn't much of an expansion and that most people would rather shop at Chapel Hill's WF. Will be interesting to see if HT gets bought by Publix in near future. Seems like more generic/chain options are coming to that area as well. I like the FL by us cause the prices are lower than anything else around and I don't hae to stand in the lines that plague Walmart.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              Being FL raised I do like Publix. It would be an improvement but not a dramatic one from HT. What I would really like is, of course, Wegmans. Saw a ranking on grocery chains in Huffington Post that had HT ranked #6, Publix #3, and Wegmans #1.

                                1. re: bbqme

                                  A Wegmans would be fantastic. Is there any word of them coming to the area??

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    I e-mailed Wegman's about a year or two ago practically begging them to come into this area. They replied that they had no plans to enter this market. However, it couldn't hurt to let them know that there a lot of shoppers here wanting to shop at Wegmans.

                                    1. re: rockycat

                                      Good thinking. I'll do the same (and it would be great if we could get a whole bunch of us emailing them). Thanks for the idea.

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        I did this and got a fairly quick reply back that they (Wegmans) had no current plans to locate in the Chapel Hill area but "who knows what the future will bring."

                                      2. re: rockycat

                                        I e-mailed Publix several times a year - they always apologized and said there were no plans...So it definitely couldn't hurt with Wegmans!

                                        1. re: meatn3

                                          I've emailed both as well. Since Publix is opening in Charlotte I think there's a good chance they'll make their way to the Triangle. Wegmans, no chance.

                                            1. re: meatn3

                                              Wow, who knew my email had such influence?! ;)

                    2. I got over to Sake Bomb for dinner tonight. I need to start with the following caveats: 1) Asian food is not among my frequent must-have cuisines; 2) a large group of diners near us had not one but two lil' screamers at the table with them, and steadfastly refused to do anything about it (even to take the wailing baby outside). My sympathies to the manager, I know that's a rough gig.

                      I had a generic sushi combo, my companion had the basil duck. Seeing my comment #1 above (I'm not a sushi connoisseur at all), I can say that the rolls and the nigiri definitely had a fresher mouthfeel than Shiki Sushi typically does. The ginger salad and miso soup openers were exactly what you'd expect and nothing more. (Neither of us were hungry enough to bother ordering real starters.)

                      My companion had some issues with his duck--ended up with some gristly bits and some bones, which I don't think I've run across in a typical Thai-style duck presentation. But overall he liked it, including the addition of some unexpected veggies like asparagus.

                      Service was a little wobbly--we had to ask for straws, and a knife for the duck dish (the duck slices were too big to handle without cutting up). My iced tea without lemon was consistently served with lemon, and no sweeteners are on the table or offered. Service was otherwise attentive and the manager stopped by to greet us.

                      Unfortunately, the bottom line is that, living pretty close to Shiki, I probably wouldn't bother driving the extra 15 minutes out of the way for the sushi, and for Thai I would go to Thai Cafe or Bangkok 54 instead. There were a fair number of diners for an early weeknight, though, so I think the place will probably hang on and be a decent option for that part of town.

                      (I do wish the "serve mediocre versions of all Asian cuisines at one restaurant" trend would go away, though. I vividly remember the time I tried the pho at Shiki. Heh. I think they used canned chicken broth as the base.)

                      1. I went to Sake Bomb last Friday with 2 friends and we had a great meal. We went at 7 pm – without reservations and asked to be seated in the dining room. There was a good crowd there already.

                        We ordered drinks – I had a regular lime mojito (great), one friend had their special berry mojito and she said it was very good and my other friend ordered a martini – don’t remember the name – but it was pinkish and had grapefruit juice in it. She loved it.

                        Their menu is extensive – I already knew this because I had looked at it online. I really wanted Tom Yum soup (love it) and also really wanted sushi. I made a mistake with ordering too much food!!! The soup was a huge serving, and it was BOGO sushi so I ordered a regular tuna roll and a spicy tuna roll. All of this was delicious! But on top of this I ordered Pad Thai – it looked beautiful but I was so stuffed I couldn’t touch it. Took it home – ate a little bit and yes it was good but I don’t do well with leftovers.

                        One friend upgraded her soup which comes with the meal to the wonton soup and had the Thai Cashew with shrimp. The other had hot and sour soup instead of miso soup, the Thai Cashew with chicken – both loved their meals.

                        I suspect that this is going to be one of my favorite restaurants! The food was really good and I can go with my non-sushi liking friends and indulge in fabulous sushi!

                        Sorry this is so long – going again tomorrow night with another friend. I’ll report back!