Our first expectation for the Bento box was that I would receive a variety of high quality food but in small amounts. However, when I received my Bento Box from Chino Latino, I was pleasantly surprised at the size of it. This in itself, I feel, is a pretty good start but, as they say, bigger isn’t necessarily better. However in this case I can safely say it is. The box as an entirety was well balanced between each dish. Not too much of anything and not to little either; which in my books is a noteworthy achievement.
In my box, I discovered inside out chicken wings, which were brilliant. The chicken was tender and the sweet chilli sauce gave them real flavour with just the right amount of heat. My main was steak jungle curry, and flavour of this dish was fantastic, spicy but with a clear coconut-y flavour. However the BIG BUT is that when it arrived it was decidedly cold and therefore lost a lot of its appeal. The side of Jasmine rice was sticky and well flavoured. Finally, the dessert: the chocolate and ginger brownie was fantastic, more cake like than your standard brownie but it definitely held its own and even came with a chocolate sauce.
The more Asian inspired box contained chilli fish cakes for starters, salmon teriyaki as a main with bok choi on the side and an exotic fruit selection for dessert. Drool, drool, drool. Delicious. At first glance the portions seem small; how were these four little compartments supposed to fill you up? But that was soon dispelled. Maybe it’s the Peachy Keen mentality that ‘full’ means 15 ‘around the world’ plates and a chocolate fondue that leaves you with meat sweats for the rest of the night’, but after this I felt delightfully full AND I could still button my jeans. The meals I picked were rich in flavour but satisfyingly clean tasting. The salmon flaked like a dream, complimented perfectly by the salty-sweet teriyaki sauce. The surprise hero of the box was the bok choi, cooked in a mouth-watering garlic fish sauce, and the Chinese cabbage was moreish and delicious. For a meal that is designed to be a takeaway, it makes sense that all the food held up very well away from the kitchen. The very small exception was the fish cakes; though they remained dense and warm, the skin became a little tough. It is worth noting as well that the boxes do not come with cutlery so you have to provide your own. Learn from us, cutting beef is hard with a plastic knife.
We have to say we were not disappointed by the flavour of any of the items we chose, however some of the items didn’t survive delivery as well as others and would benefit from being eaten in the restaurant. The variety of this meal for the price is good and the added convenience of being available for delivery as well as in the restaurant just makes it better. Wonderful though this all is, the Bento Boxes weakness lies in that we are students, notoriously tight on money. On a post crisis-Thursday, what are the chances that we are even awake before 11am, let alone ready to pre-order the day’s lunch for the 20% discount. The food itself is excellent, the service swift and friendly and, for what you get, reasonably priced; for these same reasons though, it is a splurge most students would not pay for on a regular basis and probably best suited for city workers or for special occasions. For a luxurious lunch (with the discount if pre-ordered) at £7.95, it is worth treating yourself. But ultimately, perhaps this is best saved for when the parents come to visit, book in advance and eat at the uber-cool city restaurant on 41 Maid Marion Way in the Park Plaza Hotel instead. Try a different box each and nibble from each other’s for tapas style dining. This is delicious, relaxed dining at its best.
Value for Money: 3 / 5
Speed of Delivery: 4 / 5
Food Quality: 4 / 5
Overall Score: 3 ½ / 5
Phoebe Harkin and Emma Drabble