From the creators of Sycamore Den comes their first food venture, Nom Nom Bento, Pacific Beach’s newest fast casual eatery. They teamed up with Craig Jimenez, executive chef of Supernatural Sandwiches, to create their four-combo, street-food inspired menu, and if you don’t fit in a box, you can build your own bento.
Yours truly was their first paying customer for their soft-opening Tuesday, August 15 at 1 PM. Correction: the owner’s cousin, my friend, Wallstreet, treated, so technically, he was.
Their menu is simple–pick one of their bento boxes (Singaporean, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese) or create your own. Options also include appetizers like egg rolls made by the owner’s mother-in-law.
We decided on the Singapore Chicken, the Shibuya Pork Belly, and the pork and shrimp egg rolls. While I was photographing the venue, our cashier let us sample their lemonade. Made in-house using fresh ingredients it was delightful–not too sweet or tart, just the way I like it.
A beautiful mural (credit: Jared Black Lazer) splashes their wall outside while maintaining a minimalist look inside, complete with pop art wall decor and vinyl collectibles. Side note: I’m a huge Disney fan; my go-to karaoke song is “Part of Your World.”
The egg rolls came out first and it smelled like mama’s cooking! They were packed full of meat, perfectly fried, served atop lettuce leaves, pickled daikon and carrots, with a side of sweet and sour. My personal preference is fish sauce, but I get it–some people can’t handle it nor the smell, so no complaints.
It’s my first time hanging out with just Wallstreet, so I’m thankful for his patience for my photo session.
We started with the Singaporean bento, not wanting our chicken bone broth to get cold, a current trend in the workout world after Kobe Bryan swore by it during his 2015 recovery. You can either drink it or pour a little over your rice. I loved its richness, or bỗ as the Vietnamese say.
I have little expectations for take-out I can make myself, and as JP likes to put it, the ceiling for chicken is really low. Well, I stand corrected; the chicken was juicy and tender, flavorful, and coupled with the crisp of the cucumbers, garlic, and shallots, created a well-balanced box of textures and flavors. The portion size is spot on for a meal.
We move onto the Japanese-style pork belly bento, and I immediately eye the onsen tamago (a.k.a. nitamago, ajitsuku tamago, hanjuku tamago, ramen egg, molten egg, lava egg).
Few things get my gears going–90s boy bands, bacon, and a good soft-boiled egg–and this one was executed perfectly. The touch of furikake gave it the right texture for a melt-in-your-mouth delectable bite. Sure, the ceiling for nitamago is low, but it’s easy to screw up.
The chasu was also cooked well, and paired with the toasted sesame sauce and black garlic oil.
However, the train stops there. The edamame mash was tasty with a good, creamy texture, but two scoops was far too much when combined with a heavy protein and cream sauce (and this is coming from the girl who likes double mac with her Hawaiian meals). Wallstreet agreed that less mash is more, and that it’s missing texture as the sauteed green beans wasn’t enough. I suggested more seasoning for the chasu and selecting a lighter sauce, and he suggested adding more crunch to the meal along with some pickled ginger to tie it together.
I stand by the idea that a soft opening can be successful, that a business can be “grand-opening ready” during a soft opening, but most restaurants use them as a crutch. I’m happy to say that Nom Nom Bento did a great job on their first day. As a fan of Supernatural Sandwiches, I can tell the recipes were made with care, so great job Craig!
I’ll be coming back for the other 2/3 of the menu (oh yes, all the appetizers and drinks, please).