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Redmond Bites: The Bento Box Looks To Satisfy Japanese Food Cravings

An extensive menu and delicious yakisoba make The Bento Box worth a trip.

Better bring a large appetite if you’re headed to , which serves Japanese and Korean food in portion sizes that are positively American. Tucked away in a strip mall in Overlake Square, the restaurant’s a little off the beaten path if you’re in the heart of Redmond, but the yakisoba is worth making the trip for. However, if you're craving great sushi, you might want to keep looking.

The menu boasts the restaurant is a “cozy place for your Japanese food cravings,” which might be a nice way of saying “this place is cramped.” There certainly are a lot of tables in the small space, which lends itself to a cafeteria feel, but the ambiance is not unpleasant.

The Bento Box’s menu is, of course, dominated by bento boxes, including a combination option ($11.95 dinner, $9.95 lunch) that allows you to select two items from a list of more than 20, including teriyaki, tempura, katsu and sushi rolls. Miso soup, rice, salad and three pieces of gyoza accompany the main dishes. For smaller appetites, one-item bento boxes are also offered.

The chicken teriyaki included in the bento box was an adequate representation of the ubiquitous Northwest dish, while the gyoza avoided the pitfall of being overly fried, resulting in a lightly crisped exterior. The salad was topped with a sweet sesame dressing that slightly livened the wilted leaves.

Elsewhere on the menu, diners can choose from mostly Japanese dishes — udon noodle soup, yakisoba, donburi — with the option of Korean food in the form of bibimbap, a bowl of rice topped with vegetables and a fried egg.

The chicken yakisoba ($8.50 dinner, $7.50 lunch) comes on a platter-sized dish packed to the brim with cabbage, carrots, peapods and noodles. I opted for the thicker udon noodles ($1 extra) in the dish, and thoroughly enjoyed the fresh crunch of the lightly cooked vegetables and the generous amount of chicken and noodles that accompanied them. The sweet, slightly nutty yakisoba sauce was perfectly portioned — just a coating of spicy sriracha sauce, and I was good to go.

Now, I rarely have high expectations for sushi at a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in it, and The Bento Box’s offerings lived up to them. The restaurant actually offers a fairly large selection of rolls and nigiri, but most everything had the flavor and texture of supermarket sushi — certainly not inedible by any measure, but hardly a revelation.

The unagi roll ($5.50 for five pieces) was dominated by the flavor of its seaweed wrapper despite the eel, cucumber, avocado and radish sprouts inside. The albacore tuna nigiri ($3.95 for two pieces) provided more distinctive flavors, with a cut of fish that was reasonably fresh. In all of the rolls I sampled, the sushi rice had a slightly mushy quality, lending to an overall sense of blandness.

The service on a Friday night was efficient and courteous, if not the most proactive. Be prepared to speak up if you need something additional.

The Bento Box has enough options on its menu to keep you interested across many visits, but I could see myself enjoying the yakisoba on a regular basis. For a quick lunch or dinner in the Overlake area, the place hits the spot.

The Bento Box is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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