No. 94: $5 Fish Bento at Bentoss

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Edwin Goei
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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Bentoss

675 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant

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