Hungry Hinch

Bento Box Bargains

Lunch out of the box Photo Courtesy of:

Japanese Noodle Café
122 Bourke street Melbourne

I MUST HAVE WALKED past the place a thousand times. But I'd always been on a culinary mission.

You see, this unprepossessing Japanese nosh house is on the corner of Bourke Street and Market Lane and that's the lane I'd scurry down two or three times a week to go to that Asian food nirvana: The Flower Drum.

They could have had semi-clad Amsterdam-style hookers in the window and I would not have noticed. Well, maybe not.

I was in the CBD all week recently for an absorbing coronial inquest. I had a peripheral involvement in a case where a woman's body was found in a barrel more than a year after she disappeared and her husband and son were 'persons of interest' (as they say) over her murder and body disposal.

A witness, my tenuous connection, had her name suppressed so I think I'll leave that topic alone and head back to food matters. Would be terrible to be hit with another $100,000 fine for contempt of court over a Hungry Hinch review. But then, anything is possible with such a touchy (dare I say vindictive?) judiciary.

Ito's narrow frontage and minimal English signage make it easy to miss. But, once inside, I remembered I had been here before the theatre once for a bowl of soup and noodles.

They do (or odun) that well with roast pork or chicken or fish.

During courtroom lunch breaks I felt at a mid-town loss but the rusty restaurant files kicked in somewhere deep in the foodie brain and led me back here.

The memory was reliable. I enjoyed it so much I came here alone just me and my iPad and had a daily treat.

A generous plate of gyoza one day, sushi and sashimi the next.

They serve a great sushi plate of salmon and avocado rolls with prawn tempura rolls for $ 16.50. A huge lunch with some green tea.

Another day I found their Bento boxes the best value in town. They're prices from $15.80 to 17.80.

The big one, Bento Box 5, had prawns, deep fried fish, sashimi, unagi (tender smoked freshwater eel) with a tasty caramelised sauce, rice and miso soup.

All up there were 41 dishes on the lunch menu and yes they were not only numbered they even had photos for the gaijin – I guess in case people couldn’t read.

It’s a great, convenient, value-for-money lunch spot in the heart of the CBD. It is clean, efficient and the staff and chefs keep the food coming quickly.

If I were working in that part of town I’d be lunching there every day.



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