The bento box is a nifty Japanese set lunch. A balanced meal of different flavours, colours and textures is attractively presented in a compartmentalised box. The selection can range from seafood tempura to grilled meats and vegetarian dishes, but some items are staples: vinegared sushi rice, seasonal sashimi, Japanese pickles and raw or cooked vegetables. The best wine to accompany the assorted flavours needs to anticipate the freshness of Japanese cooking and ingredients. It also should be able to handle the many slightly acidic items in the cuisine.
Oroya 2004, Castilla, Spain
This wine, created by a Japanese winemaker in Spain, was developed to handle and reflect the subtlety of Japanese food. It can stand up to the pickles and vinegared rice that would flatten most other wines. The Oroya is perfumed, but restrained. It's pure and oakless, so it doesn't disturb the purity of good Japanese food. The wine is lively and heightens the many subtle flavours of a bento box. It also mingles well with all things from the sea, including seaweed tanginess. Try this also with Chinese steamed garoupa.
Available for $128 from Omtis
(tel: 2333 0241)
Trimbach Pinot Gris 2003, Alsace, France
The Alsatians have been pushing their fruit-pure wines with Asian food for a long time. This pinot gris is rich and works well with a wide range of foods, especially grilled mackerel and chicken teppanyaki. Trimbach, which remains a family operation, is one of the most historically significant producers in beautiful Alsace. This pinot gris has enough depth to handle the sweetest Japanese soy and glazing sauces that are often used on grilled meats and fish. This wine
is also a stunning match
with the steamed, savoury egg custard.
Available for $208 from Fine Vintage
(tel: 2896 6108)
San Pellegrino Mineral Water,
San Pellegrino, Italy
San Pellergrino and French national water Perrier are owned by the same parent company. Perrier's strength lies in its bountiful bubbles, whereas San Pellegrino's uniqueness is the opposite: it's appreciated for the softness of its gas and its gentle, savoury mineral notes. San Pellegrino is a good match for many light and elegant foods. It gives the palate a constant but elevated backdrop for other flavours and textures to develop. Contrast it with Perrier to taste the true difference.
Available for about $15 at supermarkets