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By Steven Li on 2006-01-20

January 20, 2006

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The Well Bentois tucked away upstairs in a little corner near the Moilili Starmarket. Most of Honolulu’s Indian and heath markets/restaurants are centered in this Moilili/Kapahulu area. A friend who loves good healthy food recommended Well Bento to me two years ago, citing the large portions, excellent dishes and friendly service. I’ve been a frequent visitor since. The concept is local plate lunches done “healthy.” You still get your starch, mac salad and even coleslaw. Only now it’s brown rice, a light mac salad and healthy coleslaw. The best part is that it really does taste good – very good.

The place nearly went out of business for financial reasons mid 2005 but luck for us, Todd & Kristine (a nutritionist) Brown purchased it from the previous owners. Other than smaller portion sizes, nothing much has changed. It’s important that a place like The Well Bento stays in business because it is one of the few restaurants in Hawaii which offer a full macrobiotic menu.

It is a small takeout spot, most people place orders in advance becuase waiting in front of the cramped storefront for 15 minutes or longer isn’t much fun. There’s an open kitchen so you can watch them prepare all the components of your order from grilling seitan to scooping some lusciously soft brown rice.

Pictured is the Grilled Setian Plate ($7.50). (Look how nicely it’s arranged!) On the side is a small scoop of mac salad and coleslaw. The coleslaw was very refreshing and slightly tangy – I prefer the Well Bento version much more to “normal” coleslaw. The mac salad was passable, but can hardly satisfy cravings for the real stuff. The macaroni wasn’t cooked long enough and the vinegar dressing failed to hold the pieces together like good old mayo. My favorite part of the plate lunch is the tahini sauce. This creamy, very nutty gravy-like sauce is generously poured over a healthy serving of Lundberg brown rice. I could probably make a meal out of just sauce and rice alone. I choose to have the seitan grilled with a spicy assortment of Cajun seasonings. In addition to the Cajun seasoning you also have the option of teriyaki or maple bbq sauce. Six fair sized pieces of seitan were thinly sliced, dusted in the seasoning and grilled to near perfection. A squeeze of lemon and a bite of the spicy seitan with some fresh boiled veggies – from the play of textures and wide range of flavor, you don’t realize how healthy it is. I’m no vegetarin but love tofu and have always been interested in “meats” like tempeh and seitan. Seitan tends to be on the softer side with a slight chew while tempeh is meater, almost like chicken mcnuggets (maybe this is what McDonalds should replace their nuggets with…)

If you’re skeptical of fake “meats,” Well Bento offers a Transitional Menu featuring salmon, chicken and even hamburger steak. They all come with the same starches and sides. And for those who are serious about macrobiotic foods, you can get the Zen Macrobiotic plate which includes an assortment of boiled root veggies like kabocha, daikon and hijiki. But whatever you order, make sure you don’t leave without the rice with tahini sauce. The food is a worthwhile departure from everyday plate lunches. Though prices are a few dollars more than a chicken katsu plate from L&L’s, you won’t miss chicken at all after a bite of the seitan or tempeh, and think of how much good you’re doing your body!

The Well Bento
2570 S. Beretania #204
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 941-5261



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