After eating the cuisine offered by cafeterias at KAIST for a while, you might feel the urge for something more; something more delicious, something more that stimulates our eyes, nose and tongue at the same time. When I realized that the restaurants in Eoeun-dong couldn’t satisfy my cravings, I had to expand my scope to Gung-dong. There, I found the perfect solution for all my needs – Chima-Chima Bento.
Of course, when talking about food that is both pleasant to look at and delicious to eat at the same time, French cuisine will probably be the first one that comes to everyone’s mind. However, Japanese cuisine also can be very delightful to look at and tasty while costing a fraction of its French equivalent. Bentos are especially well-known for its colorful and fancy decorations, and Chima-Chima Bento offers a range of elaborately decorated bentos.
Located behind Yuseong-gu Office, Chima-Chima bento has a big glass window with white brick tiles on the outside. The interior resembles a Japanese sushi restaurant, with the kitchen partially revealed and the drapes of Japanese drawings and characters. The spoons and chopsticks are made of wood, also resembling a classic Japanese restaurant.
Before you decide from the mouth-watering menu items, you may contemplate your choices with sugared nurungji, the crust of overcooked rice. It will keep you company for the food requires 10 to 20 minutes of preparation, possibly more than 30 minutes when the restaurant is full. However, the waiting time is definitely worth it once you begin eating your bento. Miso soup is also served before the bento, so relax and eat your nurungji and miso soup before the bento is served.
The menu ranges from Unagi bento, a fresh water eel bento, to Dori Oyako bento, a chicken bento. For beginners, the chef’s recommendation is the Chashu bento, or pork BBQ bento. It has big slices of pork topped with homemade BBQ sauce and fried fish, sweet potato, cucumbers, shrimp, beans, fruits and seasoned rice, which all the bento menus include. The food comes in a wooden bento dish, with the pork and other side dishes decorated on top of the seasoned rice. The center holds the vegetables and the fruit while the pork and fries are located beside the rim. You may eat the bento by itself, though soy sauce and teriyaki sauce are provided for those who want to dip their fries in it. The Chashu bento is also the most affordable bento at 7,000 won.
If you do not want meat, you may want to try the fish-based bentos, namely Unagi bento, Sake bento (salmon) and Maguro bento (tuna). Unagi bento and Sake bento cost 12,000 won each while Maguro bento costs 10,000 won. Personally, I recommend the Maguro bento – the tuna is surprisingly fresh and tasty despite the fact that it has been frozen and heated right before being served. It also comes with salted sesame oil which you can dip your tuna in and enjoy! It is much better than eating raw tuna, trust me. Like the Chashu bento, it comes with fries, vegetables, fruits and seasoned rice. For foreigners who do not like fish because of that fishy smell, you will probably be able to enjoy the Maguro bento as it is partially frozen and therefore hardly smells “fishy.”
For beverages besides water, only coffee is available – you may choose from Americano, espresso, cappuccino or caffe latte. They are priced from 1,000 won to 2,000 won. Personally, there’s no time for a sip of coffee – the food is so great that you can’t let go of your spoon. By the time you realize what has happened, there’s an empty bento dish in front of you!
The important thing to remember before going to Chima-Chima bento is that it has specified lunch and dinner times. Lunch is from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. while dinner time is from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. However, depending on the ingredients available, the store may close early so you should call beforehand to see if they have enough ingredients. The phone number is 042-867-8693.
Chima-Chima bento certainly satisfied my craving for food that looks beautiful and tastes good at the same time. Wearied out by dull, cheap Korean cuisine offered by cafeterias at KAIST and restaurants in Eoeun-dong, Chima-Chima bento has certainly been a delightful and enjoyable experience. Those who want a fresh new taste outside of campus and want both nice looking and tasty food, Chima-Chima bento is certainly the place for you!