On Saturday night dinner was courtesy of Bento Café in Camden. Over the last year since living in North London I have become a frequent visitor here. It’s a venue that is amazingly good value for money yet provides top quality, fresh Japanese food, the ideal place to go when you want a reliably good feast with minimal fuss or effort.
Their speciality, as the name suggests, is Bento. I have tried these and they are super however what constantly delights is the salmon sashimi which is just the most tender melt in the mouth fish I have ever eaten. Served simply with some pickled ginger, shredded carrot and wasabi each mouthful is so incredibly delicious that it seems a shame even to mar the purity and delicacy of the salmon with any of the accompaniments. A dip in some soy sauce is all it needs if anything. I cannot rave enough about this.
As you enter the restaurant immediately ahead of you is a counter where the sushi chefs are preparing the fish. It’s a stunning display of all manner of aquatic beings and seeing these guys at work is always a treat, they are geniuses.
So Thomas and I shared a portion of salmon sashimi, yet again rendering us virtually speechless whilst we polished it off. Then came the kinoko yaki, or mushrooms baked in foil with a butter sauce. These were good, the aroma was notable when the foil was opened.
Thomas ordered chicken teriyaki and egg-fried rice, both faultless dishes. The chicken arrived on a sizzling hot plate, the child in me is always impressed by this assault on the senses, visually, audibly and aromatically pleasing. The taste more than lived up to expectations.
I opted once more for the special hot and spicy seafood soup. This offers a heady mix of scallops, squid, prawns, seafood sticks (I’m always amazed to see their use in Japanese cookery having associated them with decidedly non sophisticated eating in my youth) mushrooms, carrots and cabbage in a hot and sour broth with a big citrus hit courtesy of lime.
I love this. It’s always in a scorching hot bowl and I pick out the fish piece by piece then move onto the vegetables and am still left with a gloriously tasty broth, I can never finish the whole thing. I love how I can methodically plough through each element of the dish, exhibiting a slightly ritualistic way of eating which takes me back to my childhood when I would carefully deliberate exactly how I might tackle the food in front of me.
The service here is rather brusque, at times almost verging on impolite but in my experience I feel it matters very little. It’s an eat and run situation mostly when we pay them a visit but the service may irk others who are making an evening of it.
9 Parkway, NW1