Saturday, March 7, 2009


Sometimes, you just want fast food.

No, not fast food—not the mass-marketed, artery-clogging, greasy meat-and-bread culprit for obesity that most people would call food, but fast sushi. For there will be days when you find yourself driving around town wearing sweats and just not feeling in the mood to partake of the formalities of a fine dining establishment (let’s face it, restaurants can be a pain: gratuity-hungry waitstaff, gawking sushi chefs, canoodling couples and other annoying revelers).

Of course, many wouldn’t believe there is such a thing as fast sushi, but it does indeed exist.

Enter Bento-Ya and Sushi Boy, two of my favorite casual sushi-to-go joints. The latter is actually a chain with locations all over Southern California, from West Covina to Torrance, and has been known to supply boxed sushi sets to the Japanese mart “Famima!!”—which proves its integrity and consistency.

Bento-Ya, located on First Avenue in Arcadia, looks like a drive-up burger joint from the 50’s. And perhaps the unfortunate emission of hip-hop music from its speakers doesn’t match its architectural style, but this little rinky-dink diner serves up the finest spicy tuna you could ever hope to enjoy.

The roll is just okay, as the flavor of the mashed tuna somehow gets concealed by its thick layering of rice and offset by the refreshing coolness of cucumber pieces, but the spicy tuna bowl just rocks. Sitting on a bed of shredded nori, with the perfectly seasoned rice well beneath all the dominant flavors, the spicy tuna is satisfyingly abundant and surprisingly sweet. A delightful blend with the savory sushi rice.

I always ask for extra avocado, and nix the wasabi-ginger duet—although useless little packages of soy sauce still find their way into the big stapled brown bag. The extra avocado adds $.50 to your $9.95 raw-fish rice-bowl.

It is obvious that Japanese mayonnaise, green onions and chili sauce are mixed into the tuna concoction—but I had to ask in order to get them to reveal sesame oil as another key ingredient.

Non-sushi items such as the chicken teriyaki or beef bowls can also be found on the menu, along with sides such as “Mix Fry” for $7—an appetizer combo that includes one each of shrimp tempura, vegetable croquette, spring roll and aji fry (a triangular piece of battered Spanish mackerel with the tail sticking out of it). But their sushi rolls are limited: besides spicy or regular tuna, only the California or Cucumber Roll are offered. I must say this is a place I would hardly frequent, were it not for the Spicy Tuna Bowl—the one item they make incredibly well.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I would also like to point out that they have some tasty takoyaki. It needs to be eaten fresh as the oil tends to accumulate when cooled but the octopus was cooked just right.