I was first introduced to Bento Cafe around 15 years ago by an old flame who got my taste in food. I was fascinated at how sumptuous Japanese fare could be had without bleeding the wallet. I rolled the dice a few times here over the years bringing friends and family who walked away equally as happy as me. It’s run by Malaysian Chinese folk if I I remember correctly, which can’t be a bad thing if people come from all over the world to visit their country for the food. Authenticity has never really bothered me as much as the question; does it taste good? God yes! Inside is all about framed Japanese weapons, Sumo artwork, dark wood tables and a wooden counter for hand rolling sushi. I came after brunch and Brew and an outing at the zoo needing a good feed, I got just that.
When I see unagi don £9.80 on the menu it makes my belly quiver with delight. This one has all the sweet-savoury notes and buttery mouth-feel that’s so rewarding in good unagi. I melded and scooped a generous hunk of it onto the end of my chopsticks with an equal amount of sticky short-grain rice it comes with. They become one before it enters into my fat mouth. It’s bloody delightful.
Beef yaki udon £7.50 are thick and satisfying, but the flavours are understated. To be brutally frank, they tasted like they had their moment during the previous night’s service. What would make them great is a good lick of wok searing heat to give them the love they deserve.
The white tiger £9.80 is a reverse maki roll of tempura prawn with a heavenly slither of seabass which subs out the nori. There’s also mouth-popping tobiko (flying fish roe) for textural fun.
The spider roll £8.50 is tempura soft-shell crab skilfully rolled into a maki with cucumber and more texturally satisfying tobiko. I always look for this dish and easily lose myself in the moment when eating good ones.
When did I go? Apr 2017
The damage: Expect to pay £30/35 per head with a bottle of plonk
The good: I’ve never been blown away by the food here, but it’s always been reliable without making your sterling disappear like a rigged fruit machine. Their maki rolls gives goodness in blasts and I always make a point of coming if I’m in the area.
The bad: Aside from the limp udon, there’s not a lot to whine about.
Would I go again? When the craving comes
Address: 29/31 Parkway, Camden Town, London NW1 7PN
Web: Non existent