Pork Belly and Chawanmushi for Bento Box Brunch at Nobuo at Teeter House
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What: Nobuo at Teeter House
Where: Heritage Square, 622 E. Adams Street, Phoenix, 602-254-0600
When: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (no reservations past 3 p.m.)
How much: $50 per person, which includes one wine pairing
Need to Know: Fukuda needs at least three day's notice for Bento Brunch and he only takes ten people. Make your reservations by Thursday at the latest.
Mood: You wouldn't think the Teeter House -- a Midwestern-style bungalow built in 1899 -- could possibly set the proper tone for Nobuo Fukuda's modern American spin on the snack foods of the Japanese izakaya. But its age, simplicity and even the creak of its wood floors are pitch perfect, capturing the essence of wabi sabi -- a Japanese aesthetic that values rusticity, understated elegance and the beauty that comes from constant use. Painted in various soothing shades of blue and gray, the space -- a series of small dining rooms -- emotes a kind of Zen peacefulness, making it a relaxing Sunday afternoon retreat before the work week hits you like a freight train the next day.
Food: Fukuda is famous for his omakase, an improvisational sushi bar practice whereby customers trust the chef to make them whatever he wants to, usually the best of the best . It's always a win-win -- fun for the chef to strut his stuff, fun for the guest who gets surprise after delicious surprise, each dish typically more creative than anything ordered off the menu. After Japan's 2011 tsunami made sourcing Japanese products (including pristine fish) almost impossible, Fukuda abandoned omakase for a while.
Now he makes it available every Sunday in the form of Bento Box Brunch -- which means customers are really getting two great Japanese traditions in one sitting: omakase and obento. Obento (the word becomes "bento" when the honoric "O" is left off) is a traditional Japanese box lunch, picked up on the fly and eaten the same way. When hand-packed at home by Japanese mothers, bento is also school lunch turned art form, each little divider beautifully arranged with color and composition in mind.