Restaurant Review: Bento Go
Bento Go opened up this summer inside of the shell of a Wendy’s on Henderson Road. To that end, it’s equipped with a super-cute drive-thru window. The window is a work-in-progress; the caveat of the addition, as explained by an indoor staffer, is that everything at Bento Go is made to order. Drive-thrus are not necessarily the best vehicles (no pun intended) for offerings that involve preparation time. Drive-thru customers expect ready-made speed.
Inside the place, the set-up is similar to Wendy’s too; there are snaky aisle guards to steer diners queued up to order at the counter, and a heavy-duty condiment and flatware table on the side. The food itself, however, is nothing like Wendy’s. While the Oreo Frosties may be dearly missed, Bento Go’s fast Asian fare hits the spot.
Consider the Crab Rangoon ($3.25). An order yields six precious pockets of the rich, soft cream cheese and crab combo. They’re smallish and hot out of the fryer, offering optimized crunch-to-squish ratios in each bite.
There are also Egg Rolls ($1.90), wrapped in study layers of crisp, fried shell that give way to innards boasting the familiar, mild, cabbage and pork flavors in finely chopped form.
In the Ramen ($6.50) department, an order delivers the prototypically random assembly of components: broth with a tight nest of ramen noodles, potstickers, pork belly, half a boiled egg, slices of fish cake and seaweed. Of the collection, the potstickers and broth elements are the favorite things. The broth (pork bone) pleases with its homespun brininess that distinguishes itself from a generically salty brew. The potstickers are defined by their bright, fresh ginger accent that infuses a ground pork filling. As for the other elements -the slices of fish cake, for example, or pork belly; they’re too plain to ever compete with the dumplings. That’s all about par for the ramen course.
Pad Thai Beef ($7.25) is worth getting again. It’s good value, with lean beef that’s marinated in something vaguely sweet and teamed with with flat noodles, squiggles of egg, bean sprouts and scallions. The menu mentioned peanuts too but they seemed to be absent, although not really missed.
As the name implies, the menu offers bento box meals. Really, they’re more of a two-part rice and entree combo, closing the conceptual circle between cafeteria tray and hip bento container. They come in different flavors, Hawaiian ($6.25) was pretty solid. It’s similar to a throwback dish from the 80s, save for the millennial lean-ness of the pork that’s teamed with pineapple and peppers. The fried rice was heavy on the salty side, so go with the plain.
You can score some sushi rolls there too. The California Roll ($3.75) delivers the requisite crab, avocado and crunchy cucumber in the the rice package: classic form. Bento Go isn’t trying to break new grounds (except for maybe something with that drive-thru). It’s a family-run joint, offering familiar Asian eating options at affordable prices, in a fast casual context. Bento Go succeeds in those aspects. You can find it at 2226 W. Henderson Road.
For more information, visit www.bentogo.com.
Photos by Walker Evans.