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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, February 5, 2006

New bentos offer healthy benefits

By Simplicio Paragas
Dining Out Editor

Angie Koclanes offers a healthy alternative to the plate lunch bento.

Photo by Randy T. Fujimori

Healthy bento? Sounds like an oxymoron and about as appealing as airline food.

But I was proven wrong by Umeke Market co-owner Michelle Yamaguchi and chef Angie Koclanes during lunch this past Wednesday.

"You can eat healthy and still have tasty dishes," said Koclanes, a graduate of the Gros Bonnet Culinary Academy. "You don't have to sacrifice flavors; you've just go to think of ways to replace that salt or shoyu."

If dining on marinated flank steak, seasoned chicken breast, mahi mahi, tofu and salmon — the main entrees for these bentos — equates to healthy eating, then I'm game.

All entrees are grilled, thus reducing the use of cooking oil and limiting the amount of fat.

Strips of flank steak were as good as any that I've had at any casual sit-down restaurant. It was tender and punctuated with garlic.

The flaky mahi mahi and moist salmon were done to the right consistency and cooked to the perfect temperature.

As for the accompanying sides, the tofu poke offered an explosion of flavors. Firm cubes — resembling poke — were covered in spices and, of course, red chili pepper.

Each bento comes with brown rice and two choices from among such sides as spicy tofu poke, kim chee, pickled cucumber, sweet potato, dill potato salad, organic sesame green beans, edamame, red beets, miso eggplant and takuan.

"These bentos are helping people stick to their New Year's resolution," Yamaguchi said. "They're well-portioned and weighed so people don't overeat."

With Koclanes in charge of the deli now, expect the food here to be kicked up a notch — not only in terms of flavor but also in the the availability of other new dishes.

"We want do more fresh salads and entrees that people can take home," Koclanes said. "Our motto here is to live healthy."

Umeke Market is located at 4400 Kalanianaole Hwy., in the Kahala Petland complex. Call 739-2990 for store hours.