BentOn, BentOff


[Photographs: Rabi Abonour]

While the extended menu at BentOn offers a variety of salads, soups, and sushi, the main business at this Korean/Japanese hybrid is a basic assembly line. Pick a style (bowl, bibimbap, or bento), a type of rice (white or brown), and one of a long list of proteins. We stopped by to try a couple of the bento offerings.

The Pork Cutlet with Egg ($12.95) tastes better than it looks. The breaded pork is finished with sweet sauce and an egg before getting a sprinkling of scallions. This dish probably would have been soggy in the restaurant, and the trip back to the office did it no favors. The heavy breading almost totally separated from the meat, dissolving into mush. But despite the textural flaws, we found ourselves enjoying this a lot for its salty-sweet sauce and thinly-pounded pork.

The Mapo Tofu ($11.95) was a little more divisive. It's more homey Japanese than spicy Sichuan, so it tastes sweet, porky, and has only a kiss of heat.

Of course, it wouldn't be bento without a variety of side dishes. At BentOn, these are a mixed bag. I'm normally one to stick with white rice, but here it was overcooked. The brown rice ($.50 extra) is a better choice, nicely chewy and with a pronounced grain flavor. The uninteresting salad, spongy shumai, and, overly sweet tamago are all best skipped. The California roll's imitation crab is nothing to get excited about, but one taster praised it as a passable avocado delivery system. A small salad of black seaweed was the surprise hit—simple, but pleasantly sweet and briny.

You won't want this for lunch every day, but as a reasonably priced meal with lots of variety in two neighborhoods lacking in good food, BentOn is a good option to have.