The Early Word: Bento Burger
Seafood burger, with bento sides
When a restaurant describes itself as "an East Village dystopian-futuristic Asian roadhouse," there's only one course of action: Go. So that's how we found ourselves at Bento Burger, a new Asian-ish burger restaurant in the East Village last night.
You'll find a sort of Asian punk/anime vibe going on in the space, with graffiti-decorated walls (supposedly in homage to Blade Runner!), cozy red leather booths, and various Japanese flourishes.
We began our meal with hard lemonades, which were available infused with either ginger or lemongrass vodka ($8). The lemonade was quite tart and citrusy, making this a summer quencher we'd come back for anytime. An auspicious start.
Wanting to try some of everything, we split the appetizer sampler ($16), which featured fried calamari, sesame noodles, chicken wings, summer rolls, and spring rolls. We didn't care too much for the rolls or noodles, but the calamari was nicely seasoned and tender, and the chicken wings were aptly moist. As with most dishes here, it's more of a fetishized Asian sensibility than replication of genuine flavor profiles.
Beef burger, served bento-style
We then sprang for the beef burger ($10), chicken burger ($10), and mixed seafood burger ($10). The toasted buns on all the burgers were slightly dry, but each burger came as part of a huge bento platter, served alongside chopped pickles, Terra chips, and slaw, plus the usual burger accompaniments (lettuce, tomato, and onion). All of the burgers were quite juicy (a feat, given the sad state of most restaurants' chicken burgers). The "secret" spice on a side of fries ($3) recalled Old Bay, but, really, who doesn't love Old Bay fries?
The burgers were pretty good and all quite flavorful, though not mind-blowing. Still, portions are huge, the cocktails are tasty, and there's something about the kitsch factor that makes the spot enjoyable, even if it's still completely ridiculous.
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