Pictured here: Happy Bento's spider roll.
Here is the fifth of seven installments about South Sound maki sushi.
Where: 9909 168th St. E, Puyallup; 253-445-7909
Price: $ (Entrees under $14)
Happy Bento attempts to please everyone with its menu of ubiquitous Japanese and Chinese dishes. It doesn't matter who is in your group –grandma or a toddler– they will find something to like on the menu.
You might not even guess the restaurant serves sushi until your server hands you the sushi ordering sheet. There, you'll find 23 maki, including a few signature house specials. But the real specials are listed on a daily white board. Warning: you may have to search for the whiteboard, which was tucked next to the small sushi counter on my visit (I was chagrined I didn't see it until after ordering, and my server didn't mention it).
The newer restaurant is a welcomed addition to Puyallup's South Hill where maki is scarce, as is non-chain restaurant food.
What Happy Bento does well is contemporary, interesting maki. However, the quality can be inconsistent. A sushi chef appeared to be training an apprentice on one of my visits, and a few rolls were fall-apart loose and difficult to eat. Much care seemed to go into presentation on other visits. Every sauce squiggle and garnish seemed well executed, the rolls otherwise consistently tight.
Maki gets a saucy treatment at Happy Bento. Sauces are pastel shades of Pepto pink (a sweet cherry, I think) and creamy orange (chile-mayo, from the taste of it).
The Kentucky roll ($7.99) is a kitschy nod to a southern favorite with deep fried chicken, avocado, cucumber and crab.
The spider roll ($10.99) of soft shell crab, masago roe and avocado came drizzled with that funky sweet pink sauce. The pink sauce is pretty, but certainly cloying.
The black jack roll ($11.95) was interesting in the number of flavors and ingredients– spicy tuna, crab, cucumber, avocado and cream cheese inside; and eel and masago piled on the outside. For a sushi newcomer, this roll has a lot of contrasting flavors going on, so be warned.
The Happy Special roll ($12.99) –with shrimp tempura, avocado, cucumber and soft shell crab –simply crumbled apart upon picking up. It was huge, like gygantosauras futomaki, and completely impossible to eat without making a mess. The flavors were messy and a bit confusing.
Note: This is one of those restaurants that does not disclose on the menu that is serves artificial crab. If you see crab on the menu, ask your server if it's crab or krab.
A note on dessert: Happy Bento has a very kid-friendly dessert of oreo tempura ($4). Battered and deep fried, the cookies make a guilty pleasure for any kid in your group.