A new take out and take out lunch service in Hythe could change the way you think about lunchtime.

Buko Bento is a brand new company bringing Japanese bento for the first time in Hythe – bento is the name of a packaged lunch, usually served in a tray with different items in separate compartments.

There are other establishments nearby that offer Japanese food – Zen Kafe in Folkestone’s Guildhall Street offers Japanese fare, and the recently opened Cocomee on Castle Hill Avenue also sells bento boxes – but none of the dedicated Japanese restaurants.

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With more people than ever working from home and probably starting to tire of ham sandwiches every lunchtime, it looks like Buko Bento is perfectly positioned to respond to this new market.

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Most of their offering is vegetarian or vegan, although they do offer a smoked salmon sushi bento box or a 40 piece sushi platter with a mix of fish and vegetarian pieces.

As a huge fan of Japanese food, I’ve made it my mission to discover the best Japanese restaurants and visit them as often as possible – from Kitsu in Tunbridge Wells to Pom Poko in Brighton and Nippon Inn in Bournemouth.

But how will Buko Bento compare? There was only one way to find out, so I ventured out to Hythe for my lunch.

Buko Bento asks you to pre-order your lunch the day before, and that’s exactly what I did, submitting my order via email and asking to pick it up at noon. I received a confirmation email shortly thereafter and the excitement for a delicious lunch started to kick in. You can also place orders over the phone.

I ordered miso soup, veggie bento, vegetable gyoza, and doriyaki chocolate dessert
I ordered miso soup, veggie bento, vegetable gyoza, and doriyaki chocolate dessert

I chose to pick up my bento, noting that there is a 10% discount for collections, but Buko Bento also delivers for free within 3 miles on orders over £ 25.

I ordered the veggie bento, sides of miso soup and gyoza dumplings, and a chocolate dorayaki dessert – two pancakes sandwiched with chocolate cream inside.

In total I paid £ 19.35 for my bento – quite expensive for just one lunch, but if I ordered on a normal day I probably wouldn’t have ordered so many side dishes. For the purposes of a review, I wanted to be in-depth.

The bento boxes themselves cost either £ 11.50 for the vegetarian and vegan options and £ 12.50 for the salmon bento, which is roughly what you would spend on lunch and a drink at a cafe. or a restaurant.

I paid for my meal by card before going home.

The food

Unfortunately the traffic was not good when I returned to Folkestone meaning by the time I got home the gyoza had turned cold.

However, my miso soup was still hot, and it was very tasty, with bits of seaweed, spring onions and tofu giving the soup a little more substance.

My veg bento had six large sushi rolls with tempura, avocado, and cucumber in it, which was absolutely delicious. Topped with a touch of soy sauce and wasabi paste, it was one of the tastiest sushi I have ever had.

The contents of the bento box
The contents of the bento box

The potato and veg croquette was also quite nice, but probably would have been hotter.

The seaweed salad, with kale, cucumber and tomato and dressed in sesame oil, was very tasty. The same can be said for the pickled carrots, because although I don’t like carrots, they were tolerable thanks to the sesame dressing.

Finally, there was a small serving of edamame beans with sea salt. Although they were nice, I personally prefer the edamame to be pre-assembled and dressed.

The gyoza were delicious too, with hints of fresh ginger really brightening up the garnish. Unfortunately, they were cold by the time I brought them home, and they would have been so much hotter.

They could also have used some sort of sauce.

Vegetable gyoza
Vegetable gyoza

The dorayaki came pre-packaged and I recognized the packaging as a well-known brand quite easily bought in Asian supermarkets. The pancakes were light and chewy and the chocolate cream filling was perfect.

The verdict

I like to think I know a Japanese food menu, having visited many fantastic Japanese restaurants in the past, and I think Buko Bento is a great option for lunch.

The food itself was very tasty and there is a decent range to choose from for such a small business.

While I will admit that spending almost £ 20 on lunch is a bit pricey, I would say most people would really only need one of the bento boxes, at £ 11.50-12.50, to fill them up and keep them until dinner.

It might not be affordable for everyone to enjoy on a regular basis, but as a lunch treat on a Thursday or Friday to celebrate the end of the week, I think it’s a perfect option.

Plus, I imagine it’s a lot healthier than lunch bought at other fast food outlets.

My verdict? Buko Bento has a new regular customer, and whether you are new to Japanese cuisine or an expert in sushi, it is definitely worth a try.

Click here to learn more about Buko Bento.

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