Where to Buy A Box of Your Own

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

You can build a box for your bento, much as the Japanese did centuries ago, or, more easily, buy one. The boxes come in a variety of materials (lacquer, aluminum, plastic), shapes (oval, square, round) and sizes (suitable for a single diner or an extended family). Some even come with chopsticks and a protective sleeve. You can start a collection and have a different bento box for every occasion, season or flavor fancy. Here are some Washington area stores, plus online resources, that stock bento boxes.

· Arise (114 Roanoke Pl., College Park, 301-486-1230). The giant warehouse of Asian imports has large bento boxes good for at-home entertaining (e.g., a lacquer box with 12 bold-red compartments) and smaller ones with fan designs. The store is liquidating, so the boxes are on sale, starting at $65.

· Ginza (1721 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-332-7000). The Japanese specialty store sells elegant boxes made of lacquer, such as a round stacked model with a subtle gold pattern ($38.50); square-ish boxes with a colorful fan motif ($13.50); and three tiers of gold and black boxes appropriate for formal events such as weddings ($13-$21). The store also sells decorative furoshiki ($10-$33), cloths that wrap around the box and double as tablecloths.

· Han Ah Reum/H Mart (8103 Lee Hwy., Falls Church, 703-573-6300). The Asian market has a number of boxes, including two-piece containers with fan or floral embellishments, or gold bunnies hopping under the moon ($19.99). A smaller version has two simple pink flowers sprouting from the lid ($14.99). For children (or childlike adults), a powder blue plastic box with a family of bunnies and a nursery rhyme quote is on sale for a few bucks.

· Lotte (3250 Old Lee Hwy., Fairfax, 703-352-8989). The Asian supermarket stocks bento boxes in its kitchenware section. Its offerings are well suited for outdoor picnics: a green-and-white plastic container with three compartments ($9.99) and a two-layer metal stack that resembles an artist's paintbrush case ($26.99).

· Taiga Books and Video (1055 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-738-2409) offers bento boxes appropriate for formal or casual outings. Its square, ornamental lacquer boxes have two or three levels and are ideal for special events, such as flower viewing or summer parties (from $28). Kid-friendly plastic containers are designed with anime or cartoon characters and include a fork and spoon or chopsticks (from $20).

· Teaism (2009 R St. NW, 202-667-3827). The tea shop and restaurant sells a black-and-red dinner-size lacquer box with five compartments ($32); spy on a diner's meal to see the layout. Also check out the boxes at the Teaism at 400 Eighth St. NW, 202-638-6010.

· For bento boxes sold online, check Korin Japanese Trading Corp. ( http://www.korin.com), Buy4AsianLife.com ( http://www.buy4asianlife.com), Cherry Blossom Gardens ( http://www.cherryblossomgardens.com), Ekitron ( http://www.ekitron.com) and Laptop Lunches ( http://www.laptoplunches.com).

-- Andrea Sachs

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