A Square Meal

Columns What's for Lunch?

September 29, 2013

Story By: Rachel Breit | Photos by: Rachel Breit

While tackling demanding tasks at the office or at home, pausing to enjoy a midday meal can often-times seem like a luxury that time cannot afford you. But that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Studies show that skipping meals during the day and making up for it at dinner can be unhealthy. So, do your body a favor — take a lunch break.

When time is of the essence, think inside the box — the bento box, that is. This Japanese-style meal houses a tasty variety of dainty morsels traditionally arranged in wooden boxes, just right for daytime dining. Makino Chaya, so renowned for its buffet that people park themselves on benches outside the doors 45 minutes before the restaurant opens, offers four different varieties staring at $4.95 and available at 11 a.m. before the buffet opens. “It’s something healthy at a decent price,” says president Joe Makino of the bentos.

The bentos are crowd pleasers that Makino handpicked based on his experience working in the restaurant. “Whatever customers like, we serve,” he explains. Each entree is cut into pieces and accompanied by rice, salad, two pieces of California rolls, inari, Japanese pickles, vegetables and a piece of fruit. The side dishes change based on what’s fresh and available.

The Garlic Ahi ($4.95) features a lightly battered fresh fish. “The garlic is in the batter,” Makino says. Chicken Katsu ($4.95) is what you’ve come to know and love about katsu. The BBQ Chicken ($5.95), prepared Japanese-style, is flavored with teriyaki. Marinated in miso, the Miso Butterfish ($5.95) is umami-rich.

“Umami means ‘deep flavor,’ like if you age a wine for a long time,” says Makino. The last two bentos come with the additional treat of shrimp tempura.

Having a hard time deciding which one to pick? “Miso butterfish is our staple bento,” Makino says.

“Everyone loves it. You can’t get a miso butterfish bento for under $6 anywhere. It’s usually going to be $9, easy.”

If you know you have a busy day ahead of you, call Makino Chaya to reserve your bento. “We do make extra, but they run out really fast,” says Makino.

Makino Chaya

98-150 Kaonohi St., Aiea
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Friday, 6-9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 5:30-9 p.m.

Aiea, HI 96701

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