Chef Naoko: The Best Bento Boxes Around
I am in love with the Bento boxes Chef Naoko prepares, using only the freshest local and organic ingredients, for lunches served at her cheery downtown Portland cafe. Tokyo native Naoko Tamura’s ultra-natural cooking philosophy had intrigued me since reading this article. And the food certainly lived up to expectations. It’s a tad pricey because you pay for the locally-farmed ingredients. But the quality far exceeds your run-of-the-mill Bento box. My first trip I had this Farmers Veggie Box with a toothsome homestyle braised cabbage, kabucha squash and soft tofu in tomato sauce dish, a tangy seaweed-topped salad with a gingery vinaigrette and treasures like miso-glazed adzuki beans, wilted sesame spinach and a sweet tofu cube. Even the rice, dotted with millet and black sesame seeds, stood out.
I splurged on second trip back to Chef Naoko’s cafe this week. Who knows how much longer she will have these tempura-style fried local Willapa Bay oysters in season? They were served with a sweet brown tonkatsu sauce and the most remarkable tartar sauce, believe it or not. The mayonnaise base was accented with green onions and homemade pickles. I can’t wait to go back. Japanese and other Asian cuisines are pretty well represented here in the Pacific Northwest. Too bad the Japanese-Americans here were treated so poorly during World War II. This state needs all the precious ethnic diversity it can get. Now if we could only get Chef Naoko to open a sister cafe in Corvallis.