Bento Heaven is like one of those small towns where if you blink while passing through you might miss it. Even with poster-size menus and photos of food in the windows, the small storefront downtown on Tejon Street is easy to miss. I wouldn’t call it a hole in the wall, but rather an especially large walk-in closet with enticing aromas.
For four years, the family-run business has been serving up reasonably priced, made-to-order Asian cuisine. There are a few tables crammed into the small space, and while it’s interesting watching the cooks at work, there isn’t much else to induce one to dine in. This is more of a to-go business.
The menu on the wall is divided into seven sections: Bento Special; Katsu (cutlet bento); Cup Bob; Curry Cup; Heaven’s Special Deep Fry; Appetizers and Salads; and Heaven’s Specialty Sushi Rolls. Two coolers feature a variety of mochi frozen treats and bottled beverages. The wipe board bill of fare has a few add-ons, including sushi burritos ($9.99).
The burrito here is a mash-up of cuisines in name only. Salmon and bacon or shrimp tempura are the filling choices. The latter combines sticky rice, cucumber, avocado and large, crunchy, tempura-coated shrimp with tails on wrapped in nori — edible, paper-like dried seaweed. Wrapped in tin foil, like its Mexican food counterpart, this handheld meal takes the elements of a sushi roll but disses chopsticks or forks. The nori isn’t the easiest to chew, but everything else makes this a fun, tasty and messy entrée.
The Bento boxes are more traditional, served in recyclable plastic containers with sections for each component. The chicken teriyaki ($9.99) features strips of tender, marinated chicken, a scoop or steamed rice, a gyoza, three small rounds of California roll and a garden salad. Miso soup is served separately. It was the least successful item since it lacked much flavor. The salad with marinated cucumbers and a pale pink dressing tasted better than it looked.
The cool thing about the box was the tiny section for a small spiral of wasabi for the accompanying California roll. The package of soy sauce was less visually appealing, but it did the trick.
The boxes come with a choice of gyoza (pan-fried dumpling) or tempura vegetable. I didn’t realize there was an option, but I’m a fan of the crispy on the outside, juicy inside, appetizer. I was not disappointed. The dumplings may also be ordered as a bowl ($8.99) under the Cup Bob section. It’s made with thin slices of chicken and beef with clear noodles, onions, carrots, cabbage and rice. It’s like a refreshing stew with the dumplings on the side.
All of the menu items include descriptions. The Heaven’s Special Deep Fry, for example, are the tempura selections. They include vegetable, calamari, shrimp or a combination plate. In addition to the frozen mochi treats ($2.99), churros ($1.99) are also available for dessert.
Orders are placed at the counter behind which the cooking takes place. The prep work takes place in a back space beyond that. The two employees I encountered were friendly and efficient. It didn’t take long before I left with the hefty takeout order. Servings are large and I appreciate the containers were not Styrofoam, except for the small one used for the miso soup. Next time, I may skip that altogether since I wasn’t wowed by it and to be more environmentally-friendly.
Restaurant: Bento Heaven
Address: 107 N. Tejon St.
Restaurant character: Asian takeout
Rating total: 3.83 of 5 forks
Food: 4.5 of 5 forks
Ambiance: 2.5 of 5 forks
Service: 4.5 of 5 forks
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Entrees: $7.99 to $11.99
Credit cards: Yes
Vegan options: Yes
Outdoor dining: No
Gluten-free options: Yes
What’s online as of Oct. 8:
• No votes on Foursquare
• 4 of 5 stars based on 10 reviews on TripAdvisor
• No votes on Zomato
• 4 of 5 stars based on 122 reviews on Yelp
Excellent rating on May 29 by El Paso County Public Health.