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Ethnic.city: Bento Cafe

posted on February 9, 2010 at 11:40 am

Bento Cafe

Taiwanese pop songs bounce off the high walls of Bento Cafe (5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd., Norcross, 770-300-9798, www.bentocafe.com). Colorful orange signage and manga-inspired illustrations pepper the space, which feels more like a cool converted warehouse in the heart of a major city than a restaurant in a Norcross strip mall.

An energetic gaggle of young girls in spiky heels, smart winter coats and carefully manipulated scarves burst in and make their way through the restaurant to one of the kitchen-grade stainless steel tables. Without so much as a glance at the menu, they rattle off a list of dishes to a young waitress sporting a fashionable blunt haircut and colorful sneakers. When the food arrives, the girls’ chatter comes to an abrupt halt and they pounce with wide, hungry eyes.

In a time when “street food” is a marketing term, Bento is lauded by many Yelpers of Taiwanese descent for its hard-to-find home-style dishes and real-deal street snacks. Nibble-friendly appetizers such as pickled cabbage, chewy braised bean curd coated in thick sauce, and sweet Taiwanese sausage start off the meal. A platter of pillowy dumplings arrives with silky exteriors and juicy pork filling tinged with green onion. Fried fritters abound, from fish balls to chicken nuggets coated in a spicy and smoky powder (the correct plate-to-mouth technique involves impaling them with a wooden skewer). The snack food section holds some intimidating items but it’s worth the plunge. Take, for instance, the ba wan – a gelatinous dumpling that looks like a jellyfish floating in a pool of orange-red sweet and sour sauce. But the dumpling’s thick, translucent skin is just the vehicle for the hefty main attraction: a mixture of chewy vegetables and salty, minced pork.

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One comment

  • Re: Ethnic.city: Bento Cafe
    posted by: IamANT · March 8, 2010  2:14 PM

    I went to Bento Cafe last week and it was a great experience, even if the interior felt a lil cold/impersonal.

    Taiwanese sausage was the best.

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