Driving around Barbados these days is weird since we have been spending so much time indoors, it is hard to tell if all the places open now are new or if they just weren’t noticeable before. One new place everyone should be flocking to is, Bento Box in Warrens. It is a peculiar situation because while this location is new, Bento Box has been around for years. Chef Scott Ames from Bento Box has done everything from developing restaurants to catering parties. It is wonderful to see the evolution of his concept into such a well thought out addition to the Barbados food scene.
I first learned about Chef Ames from the early years of Barbados Food and Rum Festival. The festival was very focused on foreign chefs at the time. I thought he was an chef they brought in for the festival, to find out he had been working here all along. While Chef Ames is from the UK, he has been working in Barbados for decades. After the Food and Rum Festival, it was always interesting to spot where he would be appearing. Scott Ames is one of this generations early celebrity chefs from Barbados. He does parties and culinary events always cooking up a storm and working the crowd.
In addition, Chef Scott Ames has been instrumental in making sushi accessible to the Bajan food scene. Sushi started as a strange hipster, foreign food. Slowly it became less weird and is now incredibly popular. While, everyone seems to be trying their hand at sushi these days and it seems as though it has always been this way, it is important to remember that wasn’t always the case. Chef Ames has been doing sushi when it was an exotic, mysterious food. By making exceptional sushi accessible to the average Bajan, they have taken away the mystery and instead, created an appreciation. I still remember the Lionfish Maki, Bento Box used to serve on a Thursday night at Drift. It was a lovely plate of sushi goodness that you can always count on to be delectable. I love seeing Lionfish on menus and really enjoy seeing the creative ways they used it. That maki roll was the perfect combination of seeming exotic yet actually being incredibly local.
The Bajan public generally loves over cooked meat. We love our steaks well done with an extra minute just for insurance. We hate raw food and are scornful of it. The fact that sushi has caught on as a trend, is nothing short of a miracle, Yet it is flourishing. This just goes to show the influence of great Chefs like Scott Ames able to break tradition through exceptional food. If you haven’t tried Bento Box or sushi of any type yet, I implore you give it a shot. If you already like sushi, I absolutely insist you try the poke bowls. It is like a build your own adventure in a restaurant. Absolutely lovely. It seems as though sushi is here to stay. Instead of fighting it, try it and see what all the fuss it about. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. At least then you will know. My personal go to at Bento Box is the classic California Roll. It is incredibly basic but is an absolute delight. The California Roll is an inside out roll with rice on the outside, topped with sesame seeds and tobiko (flying fish roe) filled with crab, fresh avocado, a bit of cucumber, a little chives and a touch of mayonnaise. This roll sounds complicated when you read it but it tastes very clean and is almost refreshing because of the chives, cucumber and avocado. It is incredible when done right and Bento Box gets it right every time.
Furthermore, Chef Ames is bringing another trend to Barbados. Dim sum is a small plate cantonese cuisine tradition that dates back more than a thousand years, however it has never been popular in Bim. The custom is to order a variety of different dishes and share them with everyone at the table creating an assortment of tastes and textures, that produces a unique dinning experience. Bento Box serves a few of the more well known dishes, such as, spring rolls and dumplings, bringing dim sum to Barbados in a way that we are able to appreciate. It would be interesting to see if they are able to make another ‘exotic’ cuisine, mainstream on our local food scene.
In the end, the reason Bento Box has been so successful is the value you get for your money. You can see it in the little choices that have been made. Visiting their new location is a lovely experience. It is a very simple, clean place with an effortless style, which ironically takes a lot of work. Everything from the decor to the food feels fresh and bright. One thing that has always impressed me about their sushi experience is the soy sauce. It is the expensive stuff. Their soy sauce is the proper table soy sauce which is light but incredibly flavorful. You can taste it without it overpowering the sushi. It may not seem like a big deal but with something like sushi, these things are pivotal. Bento Box is not the most expensive sushi on the market, but they give you value. It is the perfect place for sushi lovers to meet their skeptical friends and make them believers. It is actually a little crazy if you haven’t been there yet.