Think inside the box: where to get your bento

Think inside the box: where to get your bento

Japan’s answer to the lunchbox, these super compartmentalised meals are best made by creative-minded mothers who mould the rice into the shape of anime characters or animals. These are less homey, but make a neat meal nonetheless

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Himajin
The food is almost as good as the eavesdropping at dark and cosy Himajin, where the – mostly Japanese – patrons sit in wooden alcoves, snacking and smoking over gossipy business meetings.

The lunch set ($5) changes daily and consists of a main (anything from fried chicken to salmon sashimi) usually served with fresh tofu and ginger, hearty miso soup, rice and pickled vegetables.

Or else you can order to your liking. The grilled mackerel ($7) is crisp and succulent, as is the salmon ($8). Himajin is a little pricier than some other options, but the conspiratorial setting and novelty toothpick holders do a lot to justify the expense.

#131 Street 200. Tel: 023 214 641. 11:30am until 2pm; 5:30pm until 10pm.

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Ichiban’s red and black lacquer bento boxes are an energy-packed option for fast dining, thanks to the inclusion of the kitchen’s special mashed potato and carrot side dish alongside the rice, salmon sashimi, miso soup and meat dish that traditionally constitute the meal.

Bento boxes are normally a takeaway lunch option, and Ichiban’s slightly out of the way location means that footfall is relatively low.

However, the excellent sake menu – which they claim is Phnom Penh’s most extensive – makes this an equally appealing option for diners who’ve got the luxury of eating in and taking a post-lunch siesta.

A hint for bargain hunters: the Pork Ginger Box may be flavoursome but its content is largely bulked up by onions; the Tonkatsu Pork is just as tasty, and seems to contain twice the amount of meat. Tempura bento $7.50, all other bento boxes $6.50.

#54 Street 454. Tel: 077 250 550. 11am until 10pm.

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Nicky Japan
In the midst of Aeon Mall’s Japanese corner on the second floor is a small food stall with simple and appetising bento boxes full of meat.

There are no elegant arrangements of sushi or sashimi or prime imported beef here, but the food is perfect for a quick bite while taking a break from a shopping trip.

The chicken teriyaki box ($5) is no-frills tasty – just chicken smothered in sweet sauce with rice, lettuce, bean curd and miso soup.

It’s probably more nutritious than the burgers and fries that can be found in abundance elsewhere in the new mall. Other boxes include Japanese beef steak and fried chicken.
Second floor AEON Mall. 9am until 10pm.

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Ninja
Served in a partitioned box painted with red and black varnish, a bento from Ninja makes for a refined if not altogether cheap lunch option. Mains include katsu (breaded) chicken ($7), teriyaki chicken ($7) or sashimi salmon ($9).

Each includes a bowl of miso soup, a few of Ninja’s renowned gyoza dumplings on a bed of shredded cabbage, rice, pickled vegetables and a big block of tofu.

The tofu is an unexpected highlight; silky soft and deep-fried in a gooey, sticky batter with a slightly sweet and gingery flavour, it’s so delicate some may find it a challenge to eat with chopsticks.

Ninja’s menu also offers smaller sets ranging from $4 to $6.50, with chicken, vegetables or pork and some sides.
#14B Street 278. Tel: 088 8617 623. 11am until midnight.

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Suzume
Just south of the messy Street 51 pub crawl is Suzume, an unassuming restaurant that serves mostly inexpensive Japanese grub – from steak to curry to sushi.

The tempura soba futomaki bento ($6) provides a relatively cheap helping of everything tempura – shrimp, okra and even a fish tail.

To round out the dish with some carbs, the box also comes with cold buckwheat noodles and two pieces of nondescript sushi with crab meat and avocado.

Other boxes include the restaurant’s signature Suzume bento ($12) complete with tuna, salmon, herring with roe and fried shrimp, as well as the somewhat Americanised youhu bento – deep-fried shrimp, squid, oyster, hamburger steak and potato salad.

#14AEo, Street 51. Tel: 012 800 3671. 11am until 1:30pm; 5pm until 9:30pm.

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