Seattle chef Tom Douglas and Nordstrom have partnered for a new dining experience at the local mega-chain’s Bellevue Square location called Department Bento. The quick-service concept is, you guessed it, Japanese-style bento boxes that lets you build your own meal.
“Bento service is one of my favorite ways to eat,” said Douglas. The chef, a strong proponent of using sustainable and seasonable ingredients, said a bento box concept lets you easily change dishes based on what’s in season.
When you first walk up to order, you’re greeted with trays of colorful onigiri, rice balls that are formed into a triangular shape, sitting on a piece of nori. The flavors, though, are decidedly not traditional Japanese—look for carrot ginger or red beet.
The visually stunning appearance of the onigiri is intentional. “It came down to color,” said Adrienne Chamberlain, director of Seattle Kitchen Partnerships at Tom Douglas restaurants, when they were deciding on which onigiri flavors will make it on the menu. You get a choice of two onigiri for your box, so choose wisely.
As you proceed through the line, you get a choice of vegetable such as matcha green beans or honey sesame carrots and a protein such as Bristol Bay salmon, teriyaki skirt steak or seared tofu.
All bento boxes come with a miso deviled egg, kimchi, cucumber and daikon pickles and ginger apricot. Ask for extra ginger apricot—trust me, you’ll want more than one piece. Pair the meal with a sake slushie—I recommend the original, but there are fruity flavors available too.
This is the first partnership for Douglas outside of Seattle and the first partnership for Nordstrom with a local chef. Vincent Rossetti, vice president of restaurant operations at Nordstrom, made an analogy of working with Douglas as if a cruise ship was working with a speedboat. Could you guess who is who in that situation?
Sources say that there are other projects in the works between Douglas and Nordstrom, though no solid details have been released.