If you’re on TikTok chances are you’ve seen Bento Box videos, the tag now has over 1.6 Billion views. The word bento originates from the Japanese word meaning lunchbox and dates back to the 5th Century when bamboo was used to carry food out to the battlefields. Nowadays it’s not quite as much work, in fact, you can grab them all around town.
We’ve put together a guide to make it a little easier to find the best Bento Boxes in Melbourne.
Located in Melbourne’s city centre, this intimate underground restaurant uses the Kaiseki technique for cooking and comes with two chef hats. In lockdown, Ishizuka launched a three-tier luxury bento box for $225, and they’ve kept the tradition going with a picnic bento inspired by the chef’s French and Japanese training. The contents of the box change daily but expect nothing but the best when ordering from here.
You know a restaurant is good when there’s no advertising or social media, and they still have long lines out the front every day. Peko Peko (the word for hungry in Japanese), is Taiwanese with a modern Japanese and western twist. It’s no-frills, just very good food, and the bento boxes are a must-have at lunchtime—just make sure you have enough time to wait in line.
You know a place is going to be good when they have a “chef’s kiss mantra” approach to preparing their food. Benton Bento in Ascot Vale has all of the classic Japanese dishes you know and love as well as some more contemporary Australian options. Their bento boxes are some of the best you’ll find North of the city.
If aesthetically pleasing bento boxes are what you’re after then look no further than Ginza Izakaya. The restaurant got Melburnians through lockdown, delivering out to a 25km radius. They’re affordable and cater for all kinds of dietary needs.
From the pair behind Wabi Sabi and Yoku Ono, this Japanese cafe is the perfect spot for Bento in Fitzroy. There are lots of vegan options and the chefs are dedicated to using fresh, wholesome ingredients. You can even pick up some merch while you’re there—the name Neko Neko means cat in Japanese and they have a pretty cute logo.
What started as a restaurant in New York, is now a Japanese empire with restaurants around the globe from Malibu to Manilla. It also has the support of Hollywood star Robert De Niro - the business partner of Chef Nobu. The Melbourne instalment of Nobu is located at Crown Casino along Southbank. Head down at lunchtime for a range of bento boxes, including the Nobu Deluxe Bento for just short of $70.
Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya
Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya is worth visiting in person to be immersed in the colourful interior. It has its very own bamboo garden and serves authentic Japanese food alongside cocktails that provide an intersection between east and west. These bento boxes are packed full so make sure you’re hungry.
Located in Elsternwick village, Momoyama Sushi may not catch your eye from the outside but the food is worth heading inside. There is an extensive menu of sushi and other dishes that are masterfully prepared in this hidden suburban gem.
Japan is famous for its grab and go style of food and Rice Workshop has fully embraced that. The Japanese rice bowl bar started as a DIY spot and has expanded to nine different stores. Pick up a bento box for under $15 from their stores all over Melbourne.
Aoba opened in Malvern in 2009 and is run by Chef Shingo Taguchi. With over 25 years of experience as a chef, you know you’re in good hands. Come here for a generous serving that will make you want to return daily.
Check out Melbourne's best Japanese restaurants over here.
Image credit: Ishizuka (supplied)