When It Comes to Easy Meals, I Go Absolutely Mento for Bento
My life can best be described in two words: hectically rewarding. And one thing I’ve learned in life is that you’ve gotta roll with the punches.
Finding the balance between work and play can be challenging, but I am a firm believer in the mantra, “work hard, play harder.” In addition, I welcome most anything that simplifies the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.
Enter the world of bentos — a quick and easy meal that makes me go a bit insane in the membrane, in part because it doesn’t require much work at all (unless you’re the one preparing it, of course). But the real reason I go gaga over bentos is they’re absolutely delicious, with all my local favorites presented beautifully on one plate.
This week, I ventured around town in search of the best “Ono, You Know” bentos around. Read on, foodies, and see for yourselves, as this bento mission was a complete success!
Sekiya’s Restaurant & Delicatessen
You know you’re in for a delicious local delight at Sekiya’s, a staple in Kaimuki for the past 75 years. With a bounty of options on the delicatessen menu such as Chow Fun Noodles, Musubi, Nitsuke Butterfish and more, owner Joy Morihara says customers can create and personalize any bento to their liking.
“Our cooks arrive at 6 a.m. and all items are ready by 8 a.m.,” Morihara says. “We’ll also custom-make bentos if the customer wants. A lot of people like to include the shrimp tempura or hash to their bento. It’s easy to substitute.”
But as indecisive as I am, I opted for Sekiya’s regular bento ($7.25), a perfect plate of fried noodles, shoyu chicken, barbecue meat, hot dog, musubi, norimaki, namasu and tsukemono. All made fresh by experienced chefs, how could I resist? And to top it off, I’m also a big fan of all of the above as I grew up with all of these local treats.
“These are just general favorites,” Morihara states. “Everybody likes these. They’ve got a pretty good appeal to them and it’s a good variety, too. A lot of people order this bento for office parties, or picnics.”
This family-owned business also serves up delicious saimin that everyone seems to love — be it original, fried, Karai or crispy.
So the next time you’re hungry for some ono grinds, head on down to Sekiya’s on Kaimuki Avenue. The delicatessen is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with service for full-course meals beginning at 9 a.m.
2746 Kaimuki Ave.
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Fukuya Deli & Catering
It’s 6 a.m. at Fukuya Deli & Catering, and at this early hour you’ll already find hungry customers in line ordering up bentos for the day. Jihei and Tsuya Takayama founded the establishment on South King Street in 1939. Today, Arrison Iwahira, Fukuya president and great-grandson of the original founders, says there are close to 40 items on the deli menu.
“You create your own bento here and can basically choose whatever you want or whatever you feel like eating for the day,” Iwahira says, reminding customers to come early for the best selection.
“A lot of people come in before work or school, bring their kids and pick up a bento,” he adds. “It’s not your traditional bacon-and-eggs kind of breakfast.”
And while I love bacon and eggs, sometimes I just have to get my fix of Nori Chicken ($2), shrimp tempura, teri ahi and hot dog roll ($4.25). All recipes have been in the family for generations.
Iwahira prepared a special bento just for me featuring some of the restaurant’s best sellers, including Miso Butterfish, Chow Fun, Nishime, Shrimp Tempura, Shiso Musubi and Fried Chicken. Is your mouth watering yet? Because mine is just thinking about it.
“Those are some of the local-Japanese favorites here,” says Iwahira, adding that everything is sold a la carte. He also credits the hard work of the many chefs and 13 dedicated employees on staff who are up before the sun to ensure that the appetites of Hawaii’s foodies are met.
Open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, Fukya Deli & Catering can be counted on to bring you high-quality food — to which generations of loyal customers can attest.
2710 S. King St.
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Most know Makino Chaya for its all-you-can eat buffet that leaves foodies like myself stuffed for days. However, it’s the restaurant’s wide variety of bentos that got me this time around.
Owner Jo Makino opened the first Aiea establishment in 2005, then a year later opened the doors to Makino Chaya’s second location in Aloha Tower Marketplace.
“Lots of people come here to celebrate parties and family gatherings, but we started selling bentos about a year ago,” Makino says.
All bentos are made fresh daily with your choice of Miso Butterfish ($4.97), Baked Salmon ($4.97), Barbecue Pork Ribs ($4.97), Lemon Chicken Katsu ($3.97), Garlic Ahi ($3.97), Crab Meat Salad ($3.97), Crab Meat Omelette ($3.97) or lastly Makino’s Tokyo Chicken ($2.97). All bentos come complete with shrimp tempura, rice, spaghetti, potato croquette, mung bean noodle salad, tamagoyaki (egg omelette) and beef mondoo. At such affordable prices, these bento options are really hard to beat.
According to Makino, the Miso Butterfish bento is the top seller among locals and tourists, and he says a Pork Katsu Curry bento ($3.97) also will be added to the lineup starting today.
“I recommend customers to pre-order their bentos because we sell out really quickly,” Makino says, adding that when you buy a $4.97 or $3.97 bento, then you receive a $5 or $4 gift card for the restaurant as well.
98-150 Kaonohi St. Ste B219
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