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I love Bento

Yes, I really do

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I was trying to get to I Love Bento, because it was a rainy, cold night that required a fast infusion of green tea, warm miso soup and some raw fish. Maybe some sake, too. And definitely a hit of wasabi. Since I firmly believe that a good winter funk — the kind that makes me want to wear a bulky wool sweater and walk alone on a rocky Quillayute seashore — is not a thing to be avoided but rather embraced as a tonic against the much less attractive and contemplative depressions of winter (the kind that make me and my sweater want to take a hard right turn at the town of Forks straight into the ocean and keep walking), I was going with my mood and following my stomach. My stomach wanted hot broth and cold fish.



Before I even had my jacket off steaming green tea in a small mug appeared before me.



“You need miso,” said the waitress who delivered it. Not a question, but a statement of fact.



“I do need miso,” I agreed.



“Now?”



“Please.”



If consumed with the proper respect — if you focus, maybe with your eyes closed, while shutting off that NBA game blasting from the large television behind Bento’s sushi bar — drinking miso can be its own form of gustatory meditation.



Miso soup shakes the taste bud out of its idleness and wakes it to the more demanding tastes of sushi. Small, pretty, perfectly constructed, delicately balanced in flavor and texture, a sushi roll is cuisine stripped bare, served naked and without apology, using pristine constituents to communicate simple ideas, with no sauces, no distractions, no nothing. You drink hot miso on a cold day and you come away understanding something of the taste of winter. You eat maguro and think, “Oh, this is tuna.” Not what tuna tastes like, but what tuna is — it’s pure pith.



When done right, eating sushi can be like a private confession of dietary sins — forgive me, I Love Bento Chef Charlie, it’s been three weeks since my last tai roll, and I’ve forgotten what red snapper is — which is why those who belly up to the sushi bar for the first time, or others who have personalized chop sticks and bottles of sake behind Bento’s sushi bar, often find it difficult to leave.



Throw on a sweater and try to resist.



[I Love Bento, 1620 S. Mildred St., Tacoma, 253.460.0675]

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