Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Wasabi – Belltown, Seattle

Posted on: Monday 27 June 2011

I have fond memories of watching Japanese cartoons and animated films during my early formative years. Dr Slump, DoraemonCaptain Tsubasa and Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli activated my imagination as a child and it was in these creative worlds that I encountered my first bento. Some plain, others decorated, single layer or stacked, I was fascinated by the elaborate meal in a box.

Wasabi in Belltown has recently reopened after a refurbishment. The interior is modern with straight lines and a lime colour scheme. There is a bar area and a sushi counter, and mirrors and chrome chandeliers decorate the main dining room.

Only bentos are available for lunch, consisting of miso soup, green salad, sunomono, steamed rice, sushi roll, daily special, dessert and a choice of two items from the menu. I selected salmon teriyaki and agedashi tofu as my hot dishes.

The miso soup was served immediately after ordering. Steaming and nourishing, the bowl of soup was gently seasoned with miso and filled with shredded wakame and cubed silken tofu.

I was astonished by the size of my bento lunch. There were three rectangular boxes with eight compartments in total, each beautifully presented. The contents from top to bottom, and left to right were: agedashi tofu, salmon teriyaki, cream puff and grapes, sunomono, green salad, steamed rice, kaki furai and takoyaki, and spicy yellowtail sushi roll.

Three inside out pieces of sushi, the yellowtail was finely chopped and lightly spiced. I don’t know if there’s a sequence to how you eat bento but I felt that the delicate flavours of the sashimi was an appropriate first course.

I’m indifferent to raw vegetables and I only sampled the green salad. Surprisingly refreshing, the sunomono had thinly sliced cucumbers and rice noodles with peanut sauce.

This version of agedashi tofu was garnished with green onions and grated daikon mixed with chilli, but was without katsuobushi (or bonito flakes). The three generous chunks of silken tofu were encased in a golden crust and soaking in a shallow pool of broth.

Glazed with teriyaki sauce and seared, the salmon fillet was well cooked and flaked easily.

Moulded into the shape of a flower, the pretty mount of rice was plenty to mop up the sticky sweet teriyaki sauce.

This was a curious component of the bento. I expected it to be tonkatsu (similar to schnitzel) but it was kaki furai, fried oyster! Crumbed in panko, the crunchy coating was a contrast to the creamy oyster inside. Hidden behind the kaki furai was a takoyaki, grilled octopus ball. A small piece of tender octopus was concealed in the savoury custard like batter. Cooked in a special pan, like the ones used for poffertjes (Dutch mini pancakes), takoyaki would make a popular addition to food trucks here!

In the dessert section were three red grapes as a palate cleanser. Light and spongy, the cream puff had a chocolate dome with chocolate cream piped into the choux pastry.

A substantial meal but not heavy, the bento experience had the bonus of reminding me of Totoro and co.!

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