This Bento’s Got a Beat

This Bento’s Got a Beat

The counter at mattebento

Westport, Connecticut-raised Matt Redington was fascinated with sushi at an early age: He remembers his dad taking him to specialty stores to purchase the ingredients, after which he would go home and practice the fine art of rolling up rice and fish into seaweed. This lifelong love of all eats Japanese have morphed into mattebento, what Redington calls “a fast, casual Japanese-inspired bodego,” recently opened in the West Village.

The venue is small—postage-stamp-sized, really—bright, cheery and spotless, with upbeat pop and hip-hop music playing in the background. You can get your food to-go, or grab a small table or stool next to the bar against one wall to eat in. The menu is an eclectic mixture of tastes: marinated baby octopus with creamy spicy sauce, fried organic chicken with coconut-curry sauce, Japanese eggplant and onigiri—a seasoned rice sandwich in nori seaweed—are some of the offerings. On this opening day I chose the tuna sushi chirashi. In all honesty, I had no idea what that really was, but I liked the words “tuna” and “sushi,” so I figured it would be something appealing to my taste buds. A few moments later, on a shiny metal tray, came a lush bowl of pickles, roe, sliced radish, tuna, avocado and egg, topped with crispy nori and fragranced with a shiso leaf, which is a type of mint. The mixture of fresh fish, mint, vegetables, avocado and egg were spectacular, a combination I never would have dare tried myself. All went down super-easily with a glass of chilled green tea.

While I was chowing down on my surprisingly delightful feast, curious locals came in to survey the offerings, grab a menu, or place a take-out order. Something tells me that mattebento is going to be a well-deserved hit.

>> mattebento, 516 Hudson St., 212.989.1888