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July 21, 2022
Hong Kong’s funky food palace, BaseHall, is set to welcome back popular Japanese conscious lifestyle brand nüte in a debut of its latest modern “Japaneasy deli” concept, benko by nüte.
The long-term BaseHall gig by benko, founded by financier-turned-wellness entrepreneur Cheman Cheung, aims to usher a focus and wakefulness on heart and healthy Japanese-inspired bento bowls designed for maximum umami and sharp flavours, eaten on the go or enjoyed over a cup of Genmaicha.
Named as a portmanteau of Japanese words for healthy (kenko) and lunchbox (bento), benko by nüte seeks to establish its Japanese brand as the city’s first gourmet grab-and-go concepts.
“There is no single formula for eating or living well, and we want to drive a better and healthier lifestyle through cooking health into taste - to serve wholesome but absolutely delicious meals backed by extensive nutritional research,” says Cheman.
“We owe it to BaseHall - they gave us a golden opportunity to take a leap of faith. We are so proud to serve Hong Kongers our ‘kenko bentos.’ Each bowl comes with distinct Japanese flavours, a balanced mix of nutrients, and satisfying portions.”
Cheman’s love affair with Japanese food and nutritious supplement can be seen throughout the offerings at Benko. “I really want to spread the message of healthy eating as enjoyable. It is a gradual shift to institute a lifestyle change in people’s diet.”
“Healthiness is not about looking lean; it is about finding what works for you. For us, it’s a balance of everything. Every single bowl has a good mix of carbs, proteins, and veggies. Everything is cooked consciously.”
Diving deep into the reasonably priced selection of healthy vegetable-focused plates, we began our conscious dining with a spread of small dishes, including the Chargrilled Miso Ponzu Corn (HK$35), Mixed Veggie Gyozas (HK$66), and Onigirazus (HK$62).
Packed with minced vegetables, the pan-fried gyozas are a treat to taste, with the served benko chilli oil raising the umami and salt levels of the filling with a slight Sichuan spice and earthy kick. The ponzu corn was sweet to taste with a salty-sweet nuttiness emanating from the miso glaze. I have never tasted an onigirazus before, but the buttery profile of the brown rice and avocado was a pleasant addition matching the tanginess of the red cabbage and vegan mayo.
As rice bowls go with benko, each dish is packed with umami-savoury vegetables, citrusy-packed proteins (Cheman is a fan of tangy flavours), and a considered balance of food elements. Popular vegetarian bowls, the Nori Lentil Bolognese (HK$98) and Crispy Chilli Garic Chive Omelette Don (HK$88), shine bright on the menu, harnessing the health and power of vegetables to pack in great savoury-umami flavours.
The vegan bolognese, made with tomatoes, red lentils, mushrooms, and walnuts, possesses the richness of a traditional tomato sauce, bar any tough or oily meat. It is slightly fruity with a hint of salt that balances the acidity of the tomatoes. Served on a bed of umami brown rice, the carb soaks up the sauce juices. The garlic chive omelette is best served with the Japanese herb sauce and benko chilli oil sauce drizzled over for an elevation of the intense garlic aroma, and pairs the fluffy egg and broccoli with a Sichuan fiery kick.
With meat and fishbowls, nüte offers three protein-packed dishes, each one serving a balanced proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, and a tangy kick: Wasabi Soy Seared Cured Mackerel Don (HK$148), Yuzu Chicken Don (HK$108), and the Sencha Market Fish Ochazuke (HK$118).
The mackerel and market fish – at time of eating was cod – was cooked in a simple wasabi and yuzu glaze, infusing each bite with a fiery and tangy bite. The accompanying sencha dashi broth, designed to be poured over the ochazuke rice bowl, is meaty and refreshing with strong hints of tea and herbs. I loved the yuzu chicken, brown in colour and citrusy with the sweet yuzu juice marinating the sliced meat to pack in a savoury juice.
From a wellness brand founded in early 2021 by an ex-banker, to an F&B brand on the cusp of BaseHall fandom, nüte scores highly with a Japanese bento box-inspired concept designed to deliver nutrition and taste as a priority to busy eaters for dining at a reasonable price point in downtown Central.
We are especially fond of the savoury-tangy flavour combinations found in the Mixed Veggie Gyozas and Onigirazus, Nori Lentil Bolognese, Wasabi Soy Seared Cured Mackerel Don, and Yuzu Chicken Don.
Wiith nüte’s commitment to conscious cooking and living, it is commendable with Cheman’s effort to analyse and account for all carbon emissions for each bowl in sourcing ingredients, food production, transportation, packaging, and recycling, striving to donate to tree planting and carbon capture funds.
Equally, each benko box provides nutritional information, including calorie count, protein, fibre and saturated fat content, with low and high carb options available upon request.
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