Summer is quickly approaching, which means Vancouverites can soon take advantage of warmer temperatures and make the most out of alfresco dining. While restaurants around the city are slowly resuming dine-in services, many spots continue to offer takeout and delivery.
Even Japanese eateries that didn’t normally offer takeout items, have made the switch during the pandemic. A highlight on these menus are bento boxes: a single portion, multi-compartment box featuring rice as the staple, paired with various types of meats and vegetables.
From traditional bentos made with classic ingredients such as sashimi and tempura, to creative takes featuring sablefish and kabocha salad, this city’s residents are spoiled with variety. The next time you’re craving sushi, try one of these intricately prepared lunchbox-style meals made by talented chefs around town.
Here’s a guide to some of the best takeout bento boxes around Metro Vancouver.
This elevated omakase (chef’s choice) restaurant has been a breakout star in Vancouver’s takeout scene because chef and owner Masayoshi Baba has translated his creative dine-in fare into innovative takeout options. His signature edomae chirashi (assorted Tokyo-style marinated fish on seasoned sushi rice) has been a bestseller, but Masa’s Bento has become a popular rival since it was introduced in April.
Made with 25 different components that rotate weekly, past ingredients include shiitake mushrooms, kabocha salad, unagi cucumber, albacore tuna, scallops, and sakura leaf. Masayoshi’s menu changes often, so keep an eye out for new seasonal and weekly bento boxes that are as photogenic as they are delicious.
As the new kid on the block, this local spot specializing in bento boxes has already earned a reputation for its tasty and attractive meals. Chef and owner Shogo Takenaka’s menu includes the kaiseki bento, a premium option that showcases nine kinds of omakase tapas, ranging from chicken karaage to ebi mayo. Another popular choice is the makunouchi bento made with five kinds of daily tapas and a mini seafood bara chirashi (cubed marinated sashimi over sushi rice) bowl. Don’t be surprised if your meal incites a bit of jealousy from dining companions.
Always the innovative chef, Hidekazu Tojo has created several bento bowls, rather than offering the traditional bento boxes. If you’re looking for a lighter meal, try the chicken soba salad that’s made with tender organic chicken, green-tea soba noodles, tamago (egg omelette), and seasonal vegetables. Go for the hamachikama chirashi bowl if you want a heartier option. This mouthwatering takeout meal includes broiled yellowtail collar, ikura salmon roe, organic greens, and Japanese pickles over perfectly cooked sushi rice. Don’t forget to mix in the soy wasabi drizzle and green onion garnish to bring out all the flavours.
Mak N Ming
Although this Kitsilano gem isn’t strictly a Japanese dining establishment, co-owner and chef Makoto Ono pays homage to his culture by showcasing Japanese flavours in his cooking. Bento boxes have been a hit on Mak N Ming’s to-go menu, and new daily creations are updated to its curated Instagram feed by way of whimsical, watercolour paintings. Past ingredients have included sablefish, nori-smashed potatoes, miso yams, eggs, and wagyu beef. The latest options featured Japanese brown stew with braised beef and rice, as well as sashimi salad made with salmon, tuna, scallop, octopus, and more. We hope its bento boxes aren’t temporary and will remain a long-term addition to its menu.
Stem Japanese Eatery
Seasoned chefs Tatsuya and Yoshi have created a detailed takeout menu you won’t find at your regular sushi shop. For a small additional fee, all its to-go mains can be turned into a bento option, which is key. Diners can choose from umami-focused items such as grilled shoyu-koji saba mackerel, miso-marinated Haida Gwaii sablefish collar, Chilliwack pork tenderloin katsu, and grilled shoyu-koji marinated Yarrow Meadows duck breast, among others. Intricate bento sides include steamed Koshihikari rice, dashi omelette, potato salad, gomaae, daikon beer pickles, and more. They say sharing is caring, but you won’t want to share this sophisticated meal.
Tucked away in the heart of Kitsilano, this Japanese izakaya restaurant is well known for its contemporary atmosphere and tasty tapas. Now it has pivoted to include takeout offerings, including limited quantities of special bento boxes. For meat-lovers, try the deluxe omakase meat bento, comprising AAA premium beef steak, minced meat and scrambled egg on white rice, egg omelet, mashed potato salad, and two special sides. The deluxe omakase grilled fish bento is another satisfying choice, featuring a daily special grilled fish paired with all the same sides as the meat bento. If your appetite is particularly healthy, you might even consider adding some à la carte items, such as juicy chicken karaage and jumbo ebi mayo, to your order.
Home to Vancouver’s holy grail of pressed sushi—aburi (flamed-seared) oshi—Miku has rolled out a successful aburi to-go menu over the past few months. Besides its popular sushi and sashimi platters, its bento boxes have been a hit with Vancouver’s sushi-loving crowds. The aburi sushi bento has all the favourites, including salmon, ebi, and saba oshi, as well as nigiris, ebi fritters, and chef’s seasonal salad. The Japanese yakiniku bento showcases sweet-soy glazed yakiniku (grilled meats) and a trio of aburi oshi, paired with soy tamago and chef’s seasonal salad.
Find more local delicacies in our Food and Drink section.