Bento-ya Kitchen is an old school, no frills contemporary Japanese restaurant in Garhoud. Established in 1997 by owner-chef Shinji Tan Iuchi of Hyatt Regency fame, it has remained faithful to its ambition of serving authentic Japanese food at a reasonable price. This was the first and original branch yet there are few tell tail signs of wear and tear. The other branch is on Sheik Zayed Road, not far from the Dusit Thani. There was a third in the Jebel Ali Food Court which burnt down last year; I hear it’ll be making a comeback soon.
The restaurant interior is a very good interpretation of a bog standard Tokyo eatery; not one of the more modern one’s mind, Bentoya has always leaned towards the more traditional. There’s the classic sushi counter as you walk in, followed by a semi-open kitchen. And in typical traditional style, the dining areas are grouped and partitioned so you can chose to eat in either a more common or more private area.
My Japanese guest and I were there to try their Ramen, one of my favourite elements of Japanese cuisine. Many believe the key component to a good ramen is the stock it is made of. Most ramen houses in Japan today use pork, not only for the flavour but also for the richness…and fattiness. For obvious reasons Bentoya DOES NOT use any pork in its dishes. Yet it has managed to produce a rich, earthy stock nonetheless using…chicken. And as a consequence the ramen they serve is a lot less fatty (thank God), and also very similar to traditional, old school ramen. So while a young Japanese many screw up his or her nose at their ramen, someone older will consider it very good and authentic. The other important component in a ramen are the noodles. And this is where I felt Bentoya strayed a little off track; either the noodles in my ramen were a little over cooked or they were using the wrong type. I’m nit-picking because in all fairness their ramens are very good.
I ordered a Tantanmen ramen while my guest ordered the Shoyu (soy sauce). Both were very good and dispatched of in no time amidst much slobbering, slurping and burping.
Also good were the Gyoza we ordered to accompany the salted Edamame we started with. It was unfortunate that the restaurant miscued and served everything all at once. Other than that little hic-up, service was good; with the Filipino waitresses speaking enough Japanese to make it all seem authentic. They welcomed us warmly, took our orders quickly, and delivered everything to our table…you know the rest.
Bentoya is one of the best Japanese all-rounders in Dubai and has a lot more to offer than the ramen I have written about. Also note that Bentoya has a sister concern called Gourmet-ya, which offers a wide range of Japanese ingredients and raw materials. This is the other reason I keep going back to Bentoya, you know the ingredients are authentic and always fresh. Check Gourmet-ya out on: http://gurumeya.com/e/index.html, or write to them on email@example.com or call 050-295-3944.