During this quarantine period, chef Bruce Ricketts of Mecha Uma in BGC has been quietly offering a limited takeaway menu of bentos for a select number of his regular customers to enjoy at home.
“Mecha Uma is known for its tasting menus featuring seasonal Japanese ingredients flown directly from Japan,” chef Bruce says of his now six-year old restaurant. “But because of the pandemic and the restrictions of quarantine on our communities and businesses, like my friends in the restaurant industry, my team and I have had to be flexible to continue serving our food to our guests.”
And what could be more flexible and versatile than the bento? “It lets us neatly package these leveled-up versions of satisfying Japanese meals that I personally enjoy eating and offer them to customers who miss having restaurant-quality food that’s difficult and time- consuming to prepare on their own at home,” says Chef Bruce who is known for his passion as much as his inventiveness when it comes to food. “It also lets me and my team focus on a main ingredient and technique, and serve that with many complementing elements that make the bento exciting to eat.”
Each of Chef Bruce’s bento is basically a playful and condensed version of Mecha Uma’s approach to cooking—global with a Japanese inflection—accompanied with the same level of care and precision one gets if one were seated at the counter or tables at BGC. He says the bentos are the closest way he can replicate the restaurant experience in a diner’s home—“with no extra effort on your part—you just have to sit and dig in and, we hope, have fun and feel transported.”
Here’s what Mecha Uma has in store: The Gyu Rosu Don (P1,350) is cooked the Japanese way, poached in dashi, but with an added technique: first, the beef is grilled and basted with sukiyaki-like tare before being poached in dashi, and again marinated in dashi for an extended period of time. It’s then garnished with familiar, traditional Japanese side dishes such as horenso goma-ae (spinach salad with sesame dressing), onsen tamago, and pickles like cabbage tsukemono and daikon fukumeni.
The Kamo Rosu Don (P850) is a duck donburi with sake- and soy sauce-poached duck breast and duck leg confit chahan, seasoned with Szechuan peppercorn tsukudani (mirin- and soy sauce-simmered peppercorns). “I find this bento really special because you don’t always come across duck in rice bowls in Japanese cuisine—we’re used to beef, chicken and pork. It’s our way of striking that balance between the comfort of eating rice and having it with something special like duck.”
The Ibérico Misoyaki Don (P820) elevates the pork rice bowl with grilled secreto Ibérico and an array of vegetable garnishes. “Aside of course from the main ingredients of each bento, like the pork, duck, and beef, we really enjoy preparing all the small side dishes and pickles that make bentos not just filling but fun to eat. You know that excitement when you first open a bento in Japan and you look at all the small components and think of which one to try first? We wanted to capture that in every bento so that you get different flavors that make every bite unique, exciting, and delicious.”
Chef Bruce and his team have likewise been known for their work with fish, with sushi being an integral part of the Mecha Uma omakase, and the Premium Chirashi (P2,500) and Toro Don (P4,350) giving ample opportunity to recalibrate techniques so that sashimi can be best enjoyed at home. “We use a variety of ingredients, like aged toro, salmon, sake-steamed kani, grilled Hokkaido scallop, blanched squid, cured ikura, and custard tamago. The variety of ingredients will change depending on seafood availability and execution. Both this and the Toro Don come with the same sushi rice that we painstakingly prepare for all the nigiris you’ve enjoyed at Mecha Uma. We’re really proud of our shari—we use a special blend of vinegar from a brewery in Kyoto that we’ve adjusted through the years as I’ve deepened my understanding of sushi.”
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Due to limited supply, the Premium Chirashi and Toro Don are available in small quantities only. And true to chef Bruce’s culinary sensibility, off-the-cuff cooking style, and the restaurant’s spirit of spontaneity, the entire Mecha Uma To Go takeaway menu is subject to frequent change, depending on ingredient availability and how and when inspiration strikes. Even more limited bento specials will be announced via @mechauma and @brucericketts on Instagram.
Mecha Uma To Go’s bentos are available for pickup and takeaway from Wednesday to Sunday only. Customers are encouraged to order in advance (at least a day ahead) by calling or messaging 0919 084 537 or messaging @mechauma on Instagram. For further inquiries, contact Jae de Veyra Pickrell at 0917 800 0523 or email@example.com.
Photos by Sonny Thakur