If you’ve never been to Winona Lake’s Cerulean, a restaurant located in the Village at Winona, because you thought it was too expensive, too fancy or too something else, then I’m about to give you the best reason you need to change your mind and it comes down to two words – Bento Box.
Bento, according to Wikipedia, is “is a single-portion take-out or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds rice or noodles, fish or meat, with pickled and cooked vegetables, in a box. Containers range from disposable mass-produced to hand-crafted lacquerware. Bentos are readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops (弁当屋 bentō-ya), railway stations, and department stores. However, Japanese homemakers often spend time and energy on a carefully prepared lunch box for their spouse, child, or themselves.” At Cerulean, a Bento Box (which is only available on the lunch menu) includes one Bento entrée and three Bento sides and is an inexpensive way to sample their fine fare.
Ordering Bento is simple but in case you’ve never done it, I’ve laid it out in three easy-to-follow steps for your viewing, and potentially consuming, pleasure.
Step 1 – Pick Your Entrée
Cerulean offers about eight different entrees as part of their Bento Box. Offering duck, seafood, fish, noodle, beef and chicken option, you’re bound to find something that appeals to you. I almost always go with a chicken or beef option and it has yet to disappoint.
Keep in mind that the prices listed next to the entrees include three Bento sides.
Craving some sushi? Cerulean offers a “Maki Choice” as part of their Bento entrees. Simply choose the maki you want and add $5 to the cost and turn that maki into a bento.
Step 2 – Pick Your Sides
Now that you’ve picked you entrée, it’s time for the fun part – the sides. This usually takes me the longest because it’s difficult to keep it to just three. While the names attached to the sides are normal (good on Cerulean for that), the servings are anything but. Cerulean puts their typical twist on them without making them off-putting to the everyday Midwest palate. As above with the chicken and beef entrees, I tend to stick to favorites such as the Brussel Sprouts, Chorizo Potato Salad and Broccolini Salad.
Step 3 – Sit Back and Enjoy
That’s it. Once the Bento arrives at your table, dive into it. It’s more filling that you would think at first sight. I’ve never finished a full “Bento Box” and always end up taking some home, thereby extending my experience and increasing the value of my order.
For less than $15 (plus tip and Uncle Sam’s take), you’ve experienced a meal at Cerulean. I’ll bet you never thought that was possible. Don’t go there for dinner and try this, though. They’ll gently inform you that the Bento is a lunch-only item … like I just did.