Obentos’ recently opened Liangmaqiao branch is literally a breath of fresh air. The restaurant has rubber sealed doors to keep smog out, and two Origins OxyBox purifiers, in order to provide patrons with impeccable air quality. Its Japanese- style dishes are equally healthy, with fish imported from the Land of the Rising Sun, along with an array of fresh, local ingredients. Many of the restaurant’s dishes are presented in the vein of Japan’s wholesomely straightforward bento style boxed lunches.
Those elements make Obentos’ fare both simply delicious and deeply nutritious, keeping the entire family happy. Children will enjoy the teriyaki chicken or salmon bentos (priced at RMB 48 and RMB 56 respectively, both from the recently unveiled kids’ menu). Both of these teriyaki choices are doused in sweetly acidic sauce, nicely complementing their light proteins. The RMB 38 vegetable yaki udon bento (also a kids menu item), features delectably textured noodles which tastily intertwine with mushrooms, shredded carrots, and lettuce. Even the pickiest young carnivores will be tempted by this healthy menu item.
However, veggies aren’t a point of contention for eight-year-old Isabella Towsey, today’s critic. “I like carrots,” she gleefully exclaims, expertly wielding the yaki udon with her chopsticks, before admitting with an adorable grin that the dish’s noodles are its true selling point. The British-born and Canadian-raised Year 4 Yew Chung International School of Beijing student is accompanied by her 12-year-old brother Steven (also enrolled at YCIS, in year 7). Steven is also a fan of Asian food; he cites the colorful jiaozi at Bao Yuan, the soupy pork baozi at Din Tai Fung, and just about any spicy Sichuan hotpot joint, as his favorites. His curiosity and hunger were both satiated by the salty seaweed encased rice balls that Obentos serves as a side for each teriyaki bento. He was delighted to find they were instead stuffed with tart flakes of salmon.
Both brother and sister were less fond of the RMB 42 roasted pumpkin, quinoa, and yuzu miso small plate. But their parents, Danicie and Paul Towsey, enjoyed that dish’s subtly sweet flavor and distinctively light texture. The adults were even more drawn to the RMB 98 beef tenderloin, wasabi spinach, mushroom, and yuzu miso. This meaty, hearty dish is portioned generously enough to satisfy at least two hungry patrons, and both parents savor its tender beef slices and plump portobello mushrooms while the kids tuck into their bentos.
The Towsey parents are impressed by how each of the bentos make for a well-balanced meal. They were all the more pleased by Obentos’ lack of oily and fatty fare, an attribute that is sorely lacking in far too many Beijing eateries. Families will also enjoy the restaurant’s range of smoothies, including nutty cacao (with low fat milk, banana, almonds, raw cacao, and organic honey), citrus mango (coconut water, mango, orange, and banana) and the green kicker (featuring coconut water, spinach, kale, avocado, apple, and pineapple), all priced at RMB 34 for a small and RMB 42 for a large. Sweet-toothed youngsters will clamor to finish their meals with a slice of carrot cake (RMB 24), a chocolate whole wheat brownie, an oatmeal cookie (both priced RMB 18), or one of the other choices at Obentos’ cake counter.
Few other restaurants can be so readily described as wholesome, healthy, and tasty all at once. But that’s exactly the impression that Obentos left on the Towseys, and it’s bound to do the same for countless other families looking for a fresh dining experience in every sense of the word.
The restaurant is non-smoking. Obentos has no bathrooms, but the Grand Summit plaza that houses it has western toilets just down the hall, with ample supplies of toilet tissue and soap.
Mon-Fri, 8am-10pm; Sat-Sun, 9am-10pm. B1-109, Phase 2, Grand Summit, 19 Dongfan Donglu, Liangmaqiao, Chaoyang District (8531 5098, email@example.com) www.obentos.com
This article originally appeared on pages 24-25 of the beijingkids March 2016 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Uni You