Out of all the dining venues in Federation Square, my favourite is the Transport/Taxi/Transit complex.

Transport is great for a quiet riverside drink (though it can get rowdier on weekends), I often take visitors to experience the slick food and expansive Yarra views at the high-end Taxi restaurant and we even arranged our post-wedding drinks at Transit.

A few months ago Taxi introduced the Bento Lunch, a more accessible way to try their Japanese inspired fine dining menu. For $45 you receive a meal consisting of four separate courses of sushi/sashimi, a soup, a main course and dessert. It’s bento without the actual bento.

I was invited to sample the Bento Lunch and was most impressed with the quality of the produce and the startlingly fresh flavours.

The lunch commenced with a platter of super-fresh salmon, tuna and alfonsino (a deepwater fish I’d never tried before) served with a sinus-clearing hit of freshly grated wasabi. So different from the insipid green toothpaste you often get served.

The soup course was a salmon miso soup with wakame seaweed and shimeji mushrooms. I don’t tend to get very excited by soup – I can take it or leave it (and most of the time I leave it, just takes up room unnecessarily in the stomach). However, this light broth had a very rich flavour as the soup stock had been made with ground salmon bones. Loved the slithery little mushrooms as well.

The main course offered two choices – snapper or pork belly. I chose the sticky pork belly with seared scallops and a spicy red nam jim sauce. I loved the strong flavour combination in this dish but the pork belly lacked the crisp crackling that I really love about the cut. On the other hand, the snapper with red pepper essence and crumbed mussels presented a very crispy skin.

Dessert was a lineup of three sorbets – mandarin, green tea and passionfruit and coconut. I particularly loved the punchy freshness of the mandarin scoop.

The Taxi Bento Lunch is offered seven days a week and is available with a changing menu right up till Christmas. It’s not your everyday grab-a-quick-bite-in-your-lunch-hour option but it is a great opportunity to try out Taxi at a cheaper price point. The service, views and food are all top rate – who needs to know you only paid $45 for it?

For other bento-style lunch options around town, check out Yu-u, Nobu and Matteo’s.

Bento Lunch, Taxi Dining Room, Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Melbourne +61 3 9654 8808

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