Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bentoss - Costa Mesa

Five dollars. The magic number that take-out joints and diners seem to be able to agree on. Any higher, as a customer, you'd balk that it's simply too expensive, verging on highway robbery. You might as well go to a sit-down, or heaven forbid, cook!

$5 is the sweet spot. Not for snacks, nibbles, or drinks. For full-on meals. A real dinner. Something that will satisfy your belly and make only a modest dent in your daily food allowance.

Five dollars, or $4.99 pre-tax to be exact, is the cost of the discounted bento boxes at Bentoss in Costa Mesa. There are exactly three offered at this price.

There's the teriyaki, which they advertise with a banner, because, let's face it, who doesn't know what teriyaki is.

But then there's there's the fried fish bento, a Styrofoam container stocked with everything you need for a balanced Japanese meal. Rice is layered in the main compartment, protected by a sheet of nori that becomes a resting platform for the panko-breaded filet of fish and a tempura-battered tube of fish cake.

Everything else becomes side dishes. In a foil doily: An umami-filled simmer of gobo shredded to sticks. Salad comes in two forms: macaroni shells and a ponzu-dressed clump of cut up iceberg. The macaroni is fortified with starch and mayo; the iceberg, briskness.

The chicken karaage bento feature balls of dark-meat chicken fried to a sublime and golden crispness outside, an absorbed sake-sweetness inside. Here, there's a scoop of potato salad and refreshing pickles. All are compartmentalized in a traditional Japanese bento box, cooked to order, and ready for a picnic (if you were so inclined and have a red-checkered blanket handy).

When you think about it, Americans have always been eating bento boxes. What are those Styrofoam containers that hold BBQ and fried chicken if not a cheap, non-biodegradable bento box? It is however, the Japanese that turned the entire endeavor of a packaged meal into an art, even when they use the same Styrofoam. They arrange it carefully, taking account color, contrast and balance. And at Bentoss, eventhough it’s technically fast food (an order never takes more than 5 minutes) the attention to detail would make a traditionalist proud.

You might recall that Mitsuwa Marketplace also does bento boxes. And that they discount them after 5 p.m. to clear out the supply left over from lunchtime. They still do that. But knowing that Bentoss offers three different choices for a lower price, not to mention that it's freshly prepared instead of just sitting around in a fridge, my opinion is that it's the better deal for your five dollars. I’d even pay six!

(714) 444-3401
675 Paularino Ave. #3
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Ngu Binh - Westminster


At 10:33 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

LOL 5 dollars. 5 dollar footlong by Subway. :) Although this looks more filling! I'll eat a footlong and still not feel full.

I went to my Mitsuwa a few weeks ago and they didn't discount their bentos even later on. Unusual! But I'd rather take a fresh bento anyday.

At 5:59 AM, Blogger Bill said...

$5 dollar makes you hollar ;-)

At 9:32 AM, Blogger digkv said...

Hahaha eattraveleat I was going to mention Subway too!
$5 seems like a pretty good price since it's a lot bigger than any of even Flame Broiler's offerings which is a bit more costly even. Which was your fav offering? They both sound really good.

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

I always wondered if this place was any good. Now I have my answer.

At 8:05 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I've also answered the siren call of the $5 Subway Footlong...but I would much rather have these in a heartbeat.

And that's a bummer that your Mitsuwa doesn't discount anymore. Ours still does, except they have stickers now instead of a guy with a red pen.


If it were 4, you'd want more!


I'm partial to the fish bento. Much more food, and a lot more interesting things going on besides chicken and rice (not that that's a bad thing--its simplicity is Zen).

And you are right in pointing out that this beats Flame Broiler on value...though I also like Flame Broiler (certain ones in Irvine).


It's a worthy successor to Super Korokke, though I still miss the mom-n-popness of that place.


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