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Bento Opens in Burlington

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Supermarket grab-and-go cases, take note: There’s a new quick-lunch option in town. Bento began its soft opening last Friday with a stock of compartmentalized meals ready for diners to eat.

Readers may remember that the eatery at 197 College Street in Burlington was originally slated to open in May. But in the interim, co-chef-owner Chris Russo helped build and open Ramen on Main Street, while also working on a personal construction project and running San Sai Japanese Restaurant with Kazutoshi Maeda.

For now, Russo says Bento is running at “33 percent” of what it will eventually be. They currently have a case stocked with inexpensive but filling Japanese meals. Main course choices include tonkatsu, chicken teriyaki, fried butterfish or shrimp and potato croquettes called korokke. Each is packaged with nanbanzuke, or cured salmon belly; cucumbers and pickled mushrooms; green salad; two different seaweed salads; and rice.

Other to-go options include soba salad, beef don and sushi. Soon, Russo hopes to begin making sushi and other dishes to order. Some of those will be part of a stand out front, where he’ll craft dumplings, yakitori and takoyaki street-style.

There’s no seating yet, but eventually there will be room for 25 inside, along with potential outdoor tables. But sooner, lovers of Asian food can expect groceries. There’s already a small stock of native sake, beer and wine. That will expand, and store shelves will soon be lined with treats including Japanese candies, cooking implements and teas.

Russo expects to make regular trips down to New York City to get his diverse wares. “I want you to be able to buy burdock and daikon and some vegetables, and eventually I’d like you to be able to buy everything for sushi there,” says Russo. That will mean adding a super freezer filled with vacuum-packed fish — the same excellent seafood served at San Sai.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Boxed In"