Saturday, September 1, 2007


Anyone care for lunch in a pretty three-tiered lacquered box? How about thinly sliced vegetable rolled like flowers or leaves, or shaped and carved with designs? Or tiny portions of foods in different variations presented like artworks, with a piece of origami on the side?

O-Bentō boxes are fun! They are single meal portions traditionally consisting of rice, fish or meat, pickled or cooked veggies in pretty lacquer ware, or wooden boxes for takeaway. In former days, it was a housewife’s skill to prepare bento boxes for the husband and children as a packed lunch, until they evolved and played a major part of in Japanese cuisine.

Often elaborate and whimsical, these treasure-like meals dates back a thousand years ago. Later, they were special treats for hanami- a special outdoor party done beneath the sakura, during the cherry blossoms season from late March to early May. In modern Japan, they are popular lunch boxes or tea party treats.

Tsu, one of the most innovative Japanese restaurants in town, offers these lunch boxes. Just a flight of steps off from Sukhumvit Road, down to the basement, it is an easy access for those grabbing a fast lunch. Chef Aki, a superb host, walks around checking on guests; exchanges a word or two and maybe get some feed back from the bubbly lunch time patrons.

“A bento is traditionally made in a 4:3:2:1 ratio: 4 parts of rice, 3 parts of the side dish (either meat or fish), 2 parts of vegetables, and 1 part of a
pickled vegetables and dessert. Here at Tsu, I make 5 or 6 of my day’s selection, depending on what is freshest in season. Prepared cold dishes are done in such a way that they will taste nice, cold.” Chef Aki is very dedicated to his craft.

The main dish carries the title of the bento box, with complementing side dishes, okazu - which can include meat, fish, eggs, tofu, fruit and vegetables- all presented in bite-size form for handy chopstick action. Considering color and pairing of food, the presentation is appetizing and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

A selection of six Bentō boxes, all served with chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), miso soup and fresh fruit, include: Grilled Chicken in a Box (300B); Hirekatsu in the Box – deep-fried pork cutlet; Unagi (fresh water eel) in the Box (400B); Tsu in the Box -daily fresh sushi, assorted tempura & grilled fish (380B); Sushi in Box (480B); and Sushi and Sashimi in the Box (580B). An advance order by phone will have your bento boxes ready for you as soon as you arrive.

Noodles- the filling, energy staple food of the Japanese diet- are not overlooked in the menu. Soba is a type of thin
Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour; in contrast to udon which are thick noodles made from wheat. It is served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. Tsu’s Tanuki Soba (cold, 190B) is served with seafood, vegetable and tempura flakes. Niku Miso Udon (190B), a Japanese version of a pasta Bolognese, uses thick wheat flour noodles topped with minced pork miso sauce. Three other hot noodle dishes (225B/serving) complete the noodle list: Tempura Udon, soup with crispy shrimp and vegetable tempura; Ebi Sansai Udon, soup with wild plants topped with a grilled shrimp skewer; and Niku Soba, soup with sliced Australian beef and veggies.

A special treat at Tsu are varieties of imported low fat sorbets made from Japanese lemons, oranges, apples, peaches and pineapples. They are beautifully carved out, made into sorbets and served in their fruit casings (350B/serving). Although a bit pricey, they are just heavenly.

Japanese cuisine, as such as modern Japanese culture, is ever evolving; yet art always work hand in hand in every detail. Served in fine Japanese restaurants, bento boxes in cute lacquered wood boxes are strongly based on its compact niftiness- it inspired the IBM ThinkPad design. Although cute and pretty, bento boxes are made for everyone. I even picture a table of bento lunch for the whole gang with Tony Soprano!

JW Marriott
4 Sukhumvit Road Soi 2, Bangkok
Tel: (66) 2-6567700

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