Last week, during the particularly cold snap we had, I saw not one, two but three people dressed in shorts and flip flops. They weren’t Swedish backpackers but were clearly made of hardier stuff than me as I shivered away in my scarf, woolly hat and coat and barely left the house.
The folks at Japanese cafe Nama Nama are evidently thinking in the same vein as those winter-shorts-and-thongs wearers, as they have launched a Winter Bento Picnic for the month of July as part of Look.Stop.Shop, a month-long program of events and experiences curated by Three Thousand and presented by the City of Melbourne.
Before you scoff ‘who wants to dine alfresco in the middle of winter’, a picnic is actually a brilliant way to up your Vitamin D intake when the sun peeks through the bare tree branches. Treasury Gardens, just across the road from Nama Nama, is the perfect picnic backdrop, with a relatively flat landscape of lush green grass, golden leaf falls and dappled sunshine. Certainly makes a nice break from the artificial light of the office and you just need to rug up a little.
For $20 per person (minimum 2 people) you receive a surprise bento box (though you can specify pescatarian, vegetarian or any other dietary requirements if need be), a sweets bento box to share, a large thermos flask of green tea, two paper cups and a woolly picnic rug to sit on.
The presentation is super kawaii and the food was interesting and surprising – meaning that I’m not sure of the identity of some of what I was eating but it was universally delicious.
What I could identify in my bamboo bento box was a delectable Wagyu beef rice paper roll with creamy mayonnaise, poached chicken salad with circles of radish, mince and green-flecked rice wrapped in a bean curd skin, some peppery pickled cucumber and daikon and a main dish of baked eggplant, braised beans, Asian cabbage slaw and rice.
My pescatarian friend enjoyed some miso marinated salmon fillet with rice, curried sweet potato with carrot and lotus root and some beautifully fatty ocean trout sashimi, a highlight.
The desserts were equally delightful morsels. A piece of fudgy dark chocolate disguised as a lamington, some fluffy berry and pistachio cheesecake, shards of sticky nut toffee, a small crushed almond biscuit, sweet pear and caramel tartlet and a Pokemon-looking wagashi – Japanese bean flour treat (an acquired taste I think).
The green tea was the perfect healthful accompaniment to the food, though I would like them to provide sturdier cups that are able to rest on the grass without tipping over!
The surprise element of the bento boxes means that you’ll be able to unroll the rug for a Winter Bento Picnic at Nama Nama any fine day in July and not eat the same thing. So enjoy the novelty (and the winter sunshine) while it lasts!
And psst…Whisper ‘MasterDen sent me’ at Nama Nama (or sister restaurants Izakaya Den and HiHou) to unlock special treats. No idea what they could be but I’m trying the secret password next time!
Winter Bento Picnic, Nama Nama, 31 Spring St, Melbourne
Monday – Saturday in July 11:30am-3pm
$20 per person, minimum 2 people, must call +61 3 9639 9500 to pre-book. Can cater to dietary requirements.