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Restaurant lunch highlights:

Bento Cafe

Bento Cafe

Bento brings sushi-boat load of good eats

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

Both Bento Café locations on Archer Road and Newberry Road in Hogtown are not new concepts. However, students, parents and people of all ages flock to this chain pan-Asian and sushi kitchen regularly. I wouldn't even attempt going during peak lunch or dinner hours unless you are prepared for an extensive wait time.

BENTOrpCHRFS

The cooked entrees range from teriyaki, curry and stir-fry creations with protein and veggies to more inspired dishes, like the Cantonese Pork Chop bowl or the Pineapple Thai Fried Rice bowl. Don't even get me started on the sheer number of sushi rolls and bowls available, from veggie-only to standards like the Mexican and Volcano rolls to sashimi bowls and everything in between. For under $10, a sushi Bento box offers a little of everything: a selection of 2 classic rolls and a California Roll ( 4 pieces + 4 pieces + 8 piece California Roll = 16 pieces ). The long lines are almost welcome to give patrons enough time to wade through the sea of meal options. But that is a big ALMOST welcome.

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At the Newberry Road location on a Tuesday at 7 p.m., the GLOB team and I were lucky to have just missed the swarm of hungry diners eager to get their hands on some reasonably-priced, casual Asian fare. We had a diverse palate for this particular venue: Mike is not a fan of raw fish; Lynn is slightly more open to the idea; And I love sushi more than most. With that being said, we went in with open minds and empty stomachs to try a little of everything.

 

BENTOrpWINGS

It took little convincing, but I sort of took it upon myself to navigate the menu for the team, as I have ordered Bento much more frequently than both of my dining companions. Starting with the cooked items, the steamed pork dumplings were a no frills, tasty appetizer with just the right texture and a tangy dipping sauce. Some clever visual signage persuaded Lynn and Mike to order six of the cilantro wings. The sauce was very tasty and the breading had an enjoyable crispness, but they seemed to be more breading than protein content. I liked that an additional dipping sauce was not needed. Without hesitation, I urged Mike to consider the Spicy Cream bowl as the main cooked entrée, especially knowing his love of spicy foods and the sheer amount of praise I hear about the rice dish. The three of us agreed that while it did not pack too hard of a heat punch, it had a great creamy flavor and texture that offset the thick chunks of slightly breaded chicken. Even the veggies in there had a little something extra to them, which I think is completely due to that sauce.

 

BENTOepROLL!

After a 5 minute wait time for the cooked stuff, the raw side of our menu arrived about 5-10 minutes after. First up was the very large Bamboo roll, which I think was the unanimous winner among the three of us. For $9.50 you can get easily an entire meal out of this 10-piece roll: I was surprised that with a filling of tuna, tempura shrimp, masago, cucumber, jalapeño AND Japanese mayo, the flavors were so cohesive. The avocado, eel sauce and tempura flakes piled generously on top, however, truly shown through with each texturally-rich bite. Sushi is just one of those foods that almost requires you to take a large, somewhat unlady-like bite of food to get all of the flavors as intended.

 

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The Veggie Delite roll -- image at the top of this review -- l was a much smaller, albeit refreshing change of pace filled with a ton of crunchy veggies and fried tofu. I usually like to order a more traditional or popular roll to see how an establishment measures up, and I figured a pretty standard sushi roll, the Volcano roll, would aid in this determination. As Mike described it, the roll was much "mushier" than the others, a filling of krab, cream cheese and avocado certainly playing into it, while the salmon, although baked with the addition of spicy mayo, contributed to such a texture. This fishier roll was still devoured in its entirety, as it was pretty well-crafted. That's an understatement: All of the sushi rolls had a beautiful presentation and were certainly crafted with care and attention to detail. Even the edible garnish was eaten. We had to take the spicy tuna-salmon don bowl to-go because there was so much food, but that is my usual order when I dine at Bento so I knew what to expect.

BENTOrpSPECIALSThere are specials offered every day, so Lynn and I thought we would take advantage of the Tuesday one to each get a boba tea since they were BOGO. I ordered a milk tea with red bean flavor and boba tapioca pearls, while she ordered the green tea with passion fruit flavor and tapioca pearls. I greatly enjoy boba milk tea, so that was a treat. The flavor list is quite extensive, so I will have to come back another Tuesday to take advantage of the mix-and-match special.

MKdrinkAIn addition to the three other Florida cities that Bento is expending into, it is no wonder why the fast-casual Asian spot has developed quite the following in Jacksonville, Gainesville and Orlando (I would go as far as to say it's partially due to a cult following for that Spicy Cream dish). Next time, I would love to try some of their lighter menu options in the form of the Kawaii rolls. These protein and veggie-filled rolls take on a healthier approach to sushi, as they are wrapped in rice paper or lettuce, which significantly reduces calories and that overfull feeling that too much rice certainly provides. I also like a more refreshing approach to sushi, and these lighter rolls allow the taste of the fresh fish to be the star. For a chain restaurant, I think the GLOB team will agree with me when I say we are on Team Bento.

The Pluses and Minuses of Bento Box:

The Bento Box + indicators: Friendly service, standard wait time for food, good value for quantity of food, decent quality considering it is raw fish, extensive and varied menu

The Bento Box - indicators: Can get very crowded.

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Bento Cafe.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

 

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Sushi, variety abound in Asian cafe

By Lynn Dirk, GLOB Content Editor

bentoBento Cafe in Royale Plaza on Newberry Road is generally a very busy place, so people apparently like the food. One thing that might contribute to that is cuisine variety and sushi options. The variety comes in a range of pan Asian cuisines including Korean bulgogi, Japanese tempura, Chinese szechuan, Pad Thai, Malaysian curry, and even a Cajun dish and a range of styles: either rice or noodle bowl or the famous bento box.

The GLOB Master, Joan Morasco, and I lucked out and got to Bento Box between rushes. We walked up to the counter and placed our orders and then took our numbers to a table.

The restaurant décor is modern and sleek, not very cozy, but the tables are very neat – the tops are lighted from underneath. Bento Box is a chain restaurant that uses either red or blue as the theme color. So far there are only two in town (thus the GLOB listing as chain restaurants with more than 3 restaurants in town are excluded). I've also been to the Newberry BB, and it has the blue theme.

 

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Generally I have restricted my sushi experiences to the vegetarian sushi from Publix. Joanie persuaded me to share a grouper sushi and I am very grateful because it was fantastic. The grouper had been battered and fried so the sushi had an unexpected crunch that was a great complement to the rice. And my favorite part of sushi is actually the wasabi combined with the soy. Yum. Sushi also includes sliced pickled ginger, and the BB ginger had a much lighter, sweeter flavor than what I had tasted at Publix. Very nice.

About the time the sushi disappeared, the entrees arrived.

Joanie had come along specifically for some bulgogi, and next time I'm back at bento box, that's what I'll get. The sauce had a very rich, spicy flavor, but yet was not overpowering.

I had the chicken and broccoli with rice. It was a bit dry, so thankfully I was able to pour on a little umami with the soy sauce.

Both mine and Joanie's dishes were similar in that the meat was thinly sliced and tender. As in most restaurants, the veggie part of the dish is not predominant, which always bothers me. BUT the broccoli was crispy good.

 

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The GLOB Master had his first bento box – the Cantonese pork chop. I was a little sorry I didn't also get that style of entrée because the dish comes with standard sides of sautéed green beans (yum, again) and a small salad consisting mainly of iceberg lettuce. The ginger dressing redeems the salad. There is also always rice AND noodles, which I think is a strange combination, but being a carb lover, I'm all for it. Finally there is a cute little coconut macaroon for dessert. Mike thought the pork chops were a little dry.

Overall, the meal was satisfying and the portion was large enough to justify the price. This is one of those fast casual restaurants – it's in between fast food and fine dining. As an example of that, BB does a good job.

The Pluses and Minuses of Bento Box:
The Bento Box + indicators: This good variety of food; there is outdoor seating; great grouper sushi.
The Bento Box - indicators: Can be very busy; the ambience is not cozy or welcoming

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Bento Cafe.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

Last modified onThursday, 23 February 2017 06:04

Additional Info

  • Phone Number: 377-8686
  • Address: 3832 W Newberry Rd, Gainesville, FL
  • Urban GLOB Location: University Avenue
  • Latitude: 29.652714
  • Longitude: -82.3810598
From:

3 comments

  • apartments in portland
    apartments in portland Thursday, 17 April 2014 13:41 Comment Link

    This design is wicked! You obviously know how to keep a
    reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost...HaHa!) Excellent job.
    I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
    Too cool!

  • Ana Araoz
    Ana Araoz Thursday, 20 September 2012 17:54 Comment Link

    Love Bento's! but I only have 30 minutes for lunch and would love them to open one on 13th St and 23 or 16th Ave.

  • Mudkip
    Mudkip Tuesday, 10 May 2011 15:59 Comment Link

    Yummy :3

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