Gobento is one of these hole-in-the-wall places whose interior design doesn’t promise too much and then surprises you with delicious, creative and original food – Bento boxes filled with little bundles of Japanese joy. And so very reasonably priced, it’s actually unbelievable.
Gobento is tucked away in a small side street near Helmholtz-Platz in Prenzlauer Berg, I’ve heard about it from friends and tried and failed to have lunch there several times, mislead by my interpretation of the name as a box of food to take away, before finally understanding they only offer dinner service Wednesdays to Sundays. Even more simple is their menu – there’s none. Chef Markus will come to your table and explain the Bento box of the night and ask you for your preferences, no-fish and vegetarian boxes are available.
Our boxes were filled with Gyoza, a Japanese slaw, ginger and three gorgeous delicacies – one of them a filled aubergine roll, the other a steamed bun with mushroom filling, and the last a kind of onigiri, a rice ball topped with dried chili flakes. Markus, as he does the service and the cooking with the help of one assistant, will hand you chopsticks, but also advice you that the best is just to use your hands. His approach to Japanese kitchen seems almost playful and his flavor combinations are spot-on, making the box a highly enjoyable feast.
We then added another onigiri and finished the meal with a sweet dough with pistachios. Everything was close to perfect, we were so happy after eating (do you know the kind of food-happiness that is especially induced by Japanese food, or is it just me?) The real surprise was when we ordered the check, it was 13,- Euros for each of us. 13 Euros for a dinner I guess would be thrice the price when offered in a fancy interior in Mitte. We quickly calculated and asked him how he’s making ends meet with such minor margins. All components of the Bento box are very complex and must take quite some time to make, not even talking about the costs of ingredients.
But these are not his concerns, his restaurant is a low-key affair focusing on high quality and original food instead of upscale interiors. There’s not even a drinks menu – while they offer free green or jasmin tea with orders, the rest is “bring your own bottle”. Anyhow, we suggested he raised his prices so this little food-treasure won’t ever fail due to a lack of turn-overs. But no worries guys, he didn’t seem very convinced.
Since they only prepare about 40 portions a night and the place only seats about 18 people, a reservation is very recommended.