Former Alice Waters Assistant Turning His Hand to Bento Boxes with a Drop-Dead Sensibility

Categories: Buzz Machine

Peko-Peko's kakuni, made with pork from Marin Sun Farms
Even in this town, many of us know Japanese food as monster maki, fast-food ramen, and greasy tonkatsu cutlets. Sylvan Brackett wants to change that. The former assistant to Alice Waters is making bento boxes combining authentic Japanese technique and Slow Food sourcing. Make that Sylvan Mishima Brackett. The 33-year-old wants you to know he has a Japanese mom, grew up in a Japanese-style house, and spent two years cooking in Japan.

Brackett calls his company Peko-Peko (rhymes with echo-echo). He takes orders by Wednesday for Friday bentos, which set you back $25 each (or rather, ouch!) -- pick them up Friday afternoon in Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood, or for $15 Brackett will deliver to SF, Berkeley, or Oakland (deliveries to Marin and the Peninsula require a four-box minimum).

Only one seasonal bento is available at a time, and everything is meant to be eaten cold. The spring version contains black cod from Bolinas, cured for three days with white miso and mirin. There's cold rice studded with peas and favas, and pieces of dashi maki tomago, a Brackett specialty. It's an omelet (made with Riverdog Farm eggs, usually) seasoned with dashi, Japan's ubiquitous seaweed-and-dried-bonito broth. Bracket shaves his own bonito on a special wood plane he scored in Japan. It's all, well, drop-dead perfect, including the boxes themselves. They come from - duh - Japan, made from recycled cardboard coated with a special black paint to appear lacquered.

And in case you want a bigger taste of Japan than fits in a bento, Peko-Peko does catering -- last weekend, Brackett cooked izakaya nibbles at a party for old boss Alice Waters. Needless to say, monster maki weren't on the menu.

Peko-Peko Japanese Catering 710-3926

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