A multi-day taste test our infected reporter would rather not have had to do, but his taste buds thank him.

Some of you may have noticed that Seiji Nakazawa, one of our Japanese-language reporters, hasn’t been showing up in many articles recently. And while we wish we could tell you the reason why is because our resident otaku correspondent is too busy watching Attack on Titan or playing Elden Ring to do any work, the real reason for his absence is that he got infected with the coronavirus.

So Seiji’s been spending the last several days at a quarantine facility in Tokyo, the Candeo Hotel near Ueno Park.

Ueno is a pretty nice part of the city, with plenty of cultural sites like the science museum with the Pokémon fossil exhibition going on right now. Of course, all those attractions are off-limits to Seiji as he as he remains sequestered from the outside world. And while he didn’t have too much trouble keeping himself entertained by leisurely browsing the Internet on his first day inside, it wasn’t long until relaxing quiet turned to boring solitude.

▼ Where’s the fun in dramatically staring out the window while holding your guitar if there’s no one there to see how cool you think you are?

Seiji has, though, managed to find something to look forward to every day during quarantine. Well, actually three things. Since he can’t leave the facility, that means receiving three bento boxed meals a day, one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. The surprising thing? Seiji’s 10-day stay is almost up, and so far he hasn’t had the same bento twice. They’ve all been different…and they’ve all been good!

Pro that he is, Seiji will now uphold SoraNews24’s dedication to food journalism by presenting the three best bento he’s had, plus one special mention.

Special mention: Bread bento

“Bento” just means “boxed meal,” but 99 times out of a hundred it also means you’re getting rice. On two occasions, though, Seiji has been given a bread bento, both times for breakfast. The bread was accompanied by sides such as cheese, fried eggs, mini omelets, and chicken nuggets, making it sort of like a breakfast buffet in a box.

3. Beef Hamburger Steak with Tomato Sauce Bento

“Personally, I think hamburger steak bento tend to be hit or miss, and really, there are a lot more misses than hits,” Seiji says. “A lot of places’ have dry, crumbly meat that you can tell must have been a frozen patty, so I really wasn’t expecting much from the hamburger steak bento they gave me at the facility.”

“But it turned out this wasn’t bad at all! It was a generously thick hamburger steak, and the best part is that the meat was really flavorful, with plenty of umami that shined through and didn’t get drowned out by the tomato sauce.”

2. Salty Sauce Beef Shoulder Roast Yakiniku Bento

“This one was nice and meaty, and having kimchi on the side really made it feel like a take-out meal straight from a yakiniku specialty restaurant.

Giving the beef a squirt from the lemon peel really brought out the natural deliciousness of the meat, and this was a filling, protein-packed meal.”

1. Teriyaki Soy Sauce Salmon with Sesame Seed Bento

“The salmon had just the right amount of fat to make it juicy, flavorful, and tender, and the mix of seasonings was interesting and delicious. You got two cuts of fish, so it was satisfyingly filling too. This was my favorite, by a wide margin, and honestly I’d have been perfectly happy even if they’d given me this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day.”

That said, Seiji definitely appreciates that the facility doesn’t just distribute the same bento over and over again, and that they’re willing to put in the extra time and effort to provide not just nutrition but variety, alleviating the cabin fever he and the other people quarantining all eventually feel. Any little bit of extra stimuli helps, and Seiji can’t stress enough what a pleasant surprise it was that everything was tasty. When he’d checked in to the facility, he’d been expecting hospital food-level blandness, but honestly the bento they’ve been feeding him are even better than the ones sold at Japanese convenience stores and supermarkets.

So while Seiji is happy to be getting out soon, and we’re happy to be getting him back to work, the food is the one part of the quarantine lifestyle he’ll miss.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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