I love Japanese bento boxes. They've got all the novelty of the compartmentalized TV dinner, only with much more variety and actually GOOD food.
Up until last night, some of my favourite bento boxed dinners came from various Annex area sushi houses where the options are standard and similar. Like most people, I had my favourites -- along with my favourite maki substitutions -- and that was that.
Then, I happened to stop into Takara Sushi at Yonge & St. Clair. Alongside a nearly 200 item strong menu, Takara offers eight different bento box dinners, all of which stray from convention.
Dining with friends, we snack at a notably large edamame bean appetizer ($3.99) and decide to explore both bento and regular sushi options.
Spicy Tuna Roll ($5.99) tickles the taste buds with green onions and spicy mayo and then a (very) Green Dragon Roll ($7.99) (pictured at the top) arrives to smooth things over with a buttery abundance of avocado both inside and out.
A simple 18-piece Maki Set ($12.99) covers the usual faves with California, tuna, and spicy salmon rolls. Nice.
The house special, Takara Roll ($8.99) with crab, unagi, and avocado is also coated in avocado, so admittedly, we begin to O.D. on the green stuff, but remain impressed with the quality, size and freshness here.
Now, we'd cleared through a much of the sushi before the bentos arrived, but only because we had to have one re-made when our server accidentally provided a demonstration of what an free-falling (and quite explosive) bento box looks like. It was a glorious mess, but thankfully no stains a Tide stick couldn't heal.
I debated between the Kisho bento ($9.99) and the Fuyu bento ($13.99), as the latter had a section of calamari/squid, but went with Kiso for the gyoza and shitake tempura (mmm!) alongside a big helping of teppanyaki beef and mixed vegetables. The sushi that came with this one was salmon rolls but I subbed them for creamy avocado that was promptly stolen by my co-diners.
The Nastu bento ($11.99) needed no substitutions. It came with 3 big California rolls, light and flakey shrimp and veggie tempura, a pair of spring rolls, bean sprouts and a choice between grilled beef, chicken or salmon. We went with salmon and were not disappointed. Seasoned well and grilled to 'perfection', as they say.
Despite the spills, the food and value at Takara is impressive. I'm already planning my next indulgence as they offer weekend buffets, take-out and even delivery for those of us hungry for bento north o' Bloor.