As you enter, it’s hard to miss the tower of empty containers and Takako Oshibuchi in her silver converse shoes, armed with fresh menus and a laptop as she sits, eating a late-lunch of rajma-chawal at her workstation.
We learn to pronounce each other’s names and muddle over accents as we sip cups of green tea, talking about her roots, InBento and the master plan to make Japanese food, a local favourite.
What is your favourite thing to eat?
When I’m in Japan, I love fresh salmon everyday but it is difficult to find in India, so I now love idlis.
What is a-must in your pantry at home?
Black nori sheets, fresh fruit, potatoes and sushi rice.
A favourite cookbook?
The Sushi Book by Nobu Matsuhisa
Restaurants you like to eat at?
The chefs at Lazy Suzy make amazing omelettes. In Japan, a childhood friend and Michelin star chef, Shintaro Katayama at Rakushin, a must-visit restaurant for authentic Japanese delicacies.
Tell us about your journey to India?
As a marketing professional by occupation, I had the opportunity to come to India to find a market for miso soup abroad.
Armed with personal experiences and a research project of my own, India was a challenge and proved that Japanese fare was not recognised by everyone, a new and unusual taste to Indians.
I remember traveling to Pune, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore to feed miso soup to a 100 strangers in the streets. Not one of them had tasted it before!
What kind of R&D went into InBento?
After my return from India, I went to cooking classes and began to read books and test recipes in my kitchen, frequently inviting friends to tastings at home. I longed to come back to India and I did – I shut down the company, said my goodbyes and moved!
I have lived in India for 5 years, immersing myself in the culture to get a better understanding of my local customer, and to create intimate and enjoyable meals, rooted in Japanese food.
For me, it was important to introduce Japanese fare without any frills. A friendly straightforward hello!
What does In Bento mean?
InBento was born out of the love and support of friends, alongside my deep need to make Japanese food accessible and easy to eat in India. Friends like Hisako, with her knowledge of ingredients helped create fusion recipes. The well-known Atmaram Gangaram and his family in Bangalore became trusted friends who attended tastings and educated my palette in local cuisine.
It loosely translates to a convenient way to carry your lunch, a concept similar to the Indian way of eating, where a variety of small portions are served on a plate. In this case, it is a box.
Follow chiobenfc on Instagram, her Bento boxes are truly a work of art.
Tell us about the menu?
We serve fusion Japanese fare, and all our recipes are built from scratch. We also cater to a large vegetarian culture; more than half our menu offers veggie dishes. We are the only Japanese kitchen to serve vegetarian sushi rice, a concept unheard of in Japan, which includes plain rice seasoned with soy sauce, sugar and salt.
Tell us something about Japanese food?
Always eat with your eyes first.
What is Japanese food like in India?
In my opinion, Japanese businesses in India tend to focus solely on Japanese people and serve authentic, familiar cuisine and miss out on including everyone else.
Takako wants to transform her small food business into a fast food chain for Japanese food. Her passion and ambition strives to make Japanese fare a household name much like a Mc Donalds or KFC.
“Today, we run a single kitchen with a delivery service to Indiranagar. I soon plan to have stores around Bangalore with counter service, so we can engage with our customers, and help them understand the menu we serve.”
A big lesson you learnt as a cook?
I am more than a chef, I am a producer of Japanese food in India who is genuinely interested in educating people about Japanese cuisine.
What do you recommend to your Japanese customers?
I honestly have very few Japanese customers.
‘This may be very strange to you,’ laughs Takako as our meal arrives in takeaway cartons, and we begin with the infamous Miso Soup, a salty and savoury broth with the taste of soya bean, dotted with scallions, corn and slices of potatoes.
She encourages us to use our hands to pick up the Ebimayo sushi rolls, eaten in a single bite of vegetarian sushi rice with touches of wispy prawn tempura, lettuce, all wrapped in a soft fluffy egg wrapper. Pakora Sushi Rolls, bites of crispy pakora, and veggies in a traditional nori wrapper.
In a city, where Japanese fare is summed up by plates of sushi and a round of cocktails at an extravagant restaurant, more a guilty pleasure than an everyday affair. We are definitely lit up, at the sight of a Japanese kitchen delivering cartons of sushi rolls, rice bowls, sweets and other specialities right to our doorstep.
How to Get There:
Contact: Indiranagar +91 7618730885
Timings: All Days | Indiranagar 11 AM to 3 PM, 6 PM to 10:30 PM
Cost: ₹450 for two people