No. 94: $5 Fish Bento at Bentoss
Edwin Goei

No. 94: $5 Fish Bento at Bentoss

Welcome to the Weekly's list of our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2011! Tune in every day until we get to número uno! Now, on to the latest entry. . . .

There are exactly three bento boxes offered for five dollars ($4.99 pre-tax to be exact) at Bentoss in Costa Mesa. The most popular is probably the teriyaki, which they advertise on a banner outside, because, let's face it, who doesn't know what teriyaki is? But my favorite is the fried fish bento, the one that comes in a typical three-partitioned foam container, each troughed section packed in with everything you need for a balanced Japanese meal.

Rice is layered in the main compartment, slightly moistened (not to mention flavored) by the short hair-like strands of a soy-sake-and-sugar simmered seaweed called hijiki no nimomo. Above that a sheet of nori blankets the rice. The nori protects the crispness and acts as the resting platform for the plump deep-fried panko-breaded filet of fish that's the Abbott to the Costello of a slender tempura-battered tube of fish cake.

Side dishes occupy the rest. In a foil doily: An umami-filled simmer of gobo shredded to sticks, tasty enough to eat with rice by itself. Salad comes in two forms: mayo-dressed macaroni shells and a ponzu-dressed clumps of cut up iceberg. Both are briskly chilled--a contrast to the the hot-off-the-fryer proteins.

Compartmentalized and cooked to order (unlike Mitsuwa's just across the parking lot), this and its other bento brothers are meals ready for a picnic (if you were so inclined and have a red-checkered blanket handy) or, more likely, as a cheap fast-food supper in front of the boob tube.

Bentoss, 675 Paularino Ave. #3, Costa Mesa, (714) 444-3401

The list so far:

No. 95: Milanesa Sandwich at Piaggio's Gourmet on Wheels
No. 96: Samurai Burrito at Wafu of Japan
No. 97: Carnitas Gordita at Bodega R Ranch Market
No. 98: Spam Musubi at k'ya Street Fare
No. 99: Tortilla Andorra at Anepalco's
No. 100: Lemongrass Chicken, Extra Spicy at Vietnam's Pearl

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