Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ideal bento box

[Update:] Sadly, the Idea bento box reviewed here has gone out of production. A good substitute is the Shikiri Bento, which is another single-tier multi-compartment box.

I’m often asked questions along the lines of, “What’s a good bento box to get started with?” A generic answer would be “whatever appeals to you, is the right size for your needs, and is within your budget.” (See the links at the bottom of this article for more to help you select a bento box.) But when I saw this box, I thought this might just fulfil the brief as a great first bento box.

The logo on top says “Ideal”, so I’m calling it the Ideal box. (Bento&Co calls it the Shikiri bento - shikiri means ‘divider’ in Japanese, and that’s a very appropriate name for it too, as you’ll see.

ideabentobox-closed.jpg

One thing that appeals to me immediately is its design. It’s quite sleek and neutral, suitable for a wide variety of tastes. (The maker claims it is inspired by 1980s design and is therefore ‘retro’. I don’t see it, but maybe you do.) It comes in black as well as white.

When you open the lid, which has a leakproof gasket all around and snap-on fasteners - great things for a bento box for newbies to have, since it eliminates most chances of leakage - you get to a clear plastic layer, which holds the included chopsticks. I love it when bento boxes include chopsticks. Have you ever brought along a bento somewhere and realized you’d forgotten to pack any utensils? It’s not nice.

ideabentobox-open.jpg

Under the clear lid, we get to the really interesting part of the box. Most bento boxes come with one divider, or at the most one divider plus a little inner cup. This one comes with two multi-compartment dividers plus a simple I-shaped divider.

ideabentobox-open-parts.jpg

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You can use the dividers and compartments in all kinds of ways - or just leave them out. The great thing is, each of the inner elements fits snugly enough in the box not to shift around, even when used singly. You could even leave out the dividers altogether if you wanted. But having so many compartments to fill may just inspire you to diversify your lunchtime menu with different foods.

ideabentobox-open-shikiri.jpg

The Ideal bento box is not cheap, but it’s very sturdily built and should last for a long time with proper care - and it could just be the only box you’ll ever need. It’s microwave-safe with the lid removed. (Tip: if you tend to favor foods that can stain, e.g. curry or tomato sauce, go for the black model.) (Actually it seems the dividers are white even in the black box so…that doesn’t quite work ^_^; For what it’s worth though I have the white model, and so far it hasn’t stained at all, even after packing some tomato-sauce pasta in it.) Available at Bento&Co for US $32 / €23.

And here’s the box in action - also a sneak preview of the next Guy Does Bento!

ideabentobox-filled.jpg

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

36 comments

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Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

It's a "bubble" bento box, lol!

It looks really good and I can see most guys not having a problem using it. What are the size measurements of it?

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

I love the neat look of all the little dividers! I just ordered one, and I'll try to get pics of it in action =^.^=

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

That is one very cool bento box. I love all the dividers! It looks very easy to use as well as nifty. Thanks for the review!

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

Already sold out, but thanks for the tip :-(

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

I am now officially in LOVE! Now all I have to do is convince hubby that I really need ANOTHER bento box! LOL

I particularly appreciate all the little sections - we've been using silicon cupcake thingies, which is fine, but sometimes I squish them trying to get them in place after I've filled them (I'm clumsy that way), and get stuff everywhere. I like that I can just fill the compartments in place.

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

Heeding your note about possible staining with curries in the white box, I checked out the black box. I was disappointed to see that it has the same white dividers as the white one. While the interior is black the compartments and dividers are white. Doesn't seem to help much.

Just as well, perhaps. I like the look of the white one better anyhow. Probably won't be so pretty on the inside after some use, though. :(

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

Yipes, I didn't realize that. Thanks for checking!

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

I just received my box last week and one of the first things I packed was Malaysian Chicken Curry (http://www.flickr.com/photos/cathryn3/6239268313/). I packed it the night before, zapped it in the microwave at work and then washed it out after I was done - no stains :) I don't know how well it would hold up if I had waited to wash it out until I got home but...at least I know it's safe to pack.

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

My first bento box was similar to this - and I did not know that it was a bento box! I thought it was an oddly shaped sandwich container! It was given to me gratis at a Korean grocery store near my home and for years I used it for my lunch time sandwich, and I wondered what that I shaped divider was for!

My box had only the I divider, not the two multi pocket dividers. Thankfully, I did not throw the divider away even though I had no idea what it was for. Even after reading about bento and trying bento recipes and bento lunches it was a while before I had a genuine bento box in my kitchen!

Now I try to make bento as often as I can, and that is not often enough! My favorite part is the tamagoyaki.

Keep posting - I love you blog - and good health to you!

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

Same, I have a bento box with very similar external design, with a Snoopy print on the lid (I love Snoopy!). Unfortunetly, I got this as a hand me down when I was a kid, and didn't know it was a bento box...and used it as a pencil case! After all these years, I still haven't been able to get rid of all the graphite stains... :[
Also, this box also has the moulds for a divider in the middle...but again, unfortunately either I lost the divider or I never got it.

More soon, but...

Thanks for the review Maki !

We will get more of this box very soon on Bento&co,

But sadly the maker will close its door next month.
So we decided to buy almost all their stock. We should have enough for Justbento's fans!

Re: More soon, but...

Aww, that's too bad! Maybe you can convince another bento box maker to make a similar box! ^_^

Re: More soon, but...

I ordered one very recently (about a week ago). They come without the chopsticks now and apparently are a little cheaper because of that. When the supply is gone, that's it!

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

This looks excellent! I've just started doing bentos for myself and my husband, and have been doing very well with an 800mL Lock&Lock box and some silicone muffin cups as dividers. This looks like a much better version of that - I think I'll put it on my list for later in the year!

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

Ooooh, I haven't bought new bento gear in ages - this looks fabulous! Thanks for the review!!

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

That looks like bento box heaven! But $32 for a box makes me weep!

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

Thank you for going on! The guys bento looks great - keep practising ;-) you'll get there.
I have been looking for such a bento box - but ordering from Japan with all the customs hassle as a full-timeworker is not feasible for me :-(( But I have found a similar on at Casa Bento "Bento Box General Style". Unfortunately it is only black and has an fixed divider but a lit with shop sticks in the top lid and has snaps to close. So for all Europeans wouldn't this be an alterntiv!
Thanks.
Kind regards.

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

Bento and Co. says the manufacturer is closing its doors and has this marked down! Get it while you can. :)

Microwaveable?

I just placed my order for this marvelous bento box, and wanted to know if you can put it in the microwave. If so, what is the maximum amount of time that I can heat the box and its contents (on high power, in a microwave larger than 700W)? Thanks!

Re: Microwaveable?

The manufacturer's instructions say it is microwave-safe with the outer and inner lids removed. Most Japanese microwave-safe bento boxes say a maximum of 3 minutes at 700W, so if you have a higher powered micowave you may want to use a lower setting. (In other words you can reheat food in the box, but not cook stuff in it.)

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

This really is the perfect bento box. I love all the compartments and being able to switch them out as desired. I just placed an order and I hope it can be fulfilled. It seems very popular from what Bento&co has stated on their Facebook page so I hope I got my order in on time!

I've been careful not to start a bento collection but I'm afraid I'll be up to three with this one! I should really say two because I was inspired by an post of yours (from 2008!) about vintage bento boxes and ended up buying a Little Twin Stars aluminum bento box from the 80s. It's far too precious to me to actually put food in it (haha) so I'm excited to have a bento box I can actually use!

Best wishes.

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

I am so excited about these! I just ordered 2. I was looking for a bento box that has 1 layer with 2 permanent dividers and a waterproof lid. This fit the bill!! I was so specific because it is for my 3.5 year old son. With the birth of my daughter I am noticing that all of my errands and car trips take twice as long and on-the-go meals are a must. I needed a convenient way to make healthy, portable meals. I started researching bento boxes, but had no luck until I stumbled on this review. Thanks!!

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

At first I thought that this would be just your normal "either holders or nothing to wedge in" bento, but this is great! It's great for sectioning up your items or making kyaraben easier. ^^

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

I just received mine and was wondering if someone could tell me what size chopsticks will fit in the compartment. I dont want to have to take the lid with me when I go shopping ;) I do see they list a S and L size box as well and these have chopsticks but I wasn't aware of them when I ordered mine. Can't wait to use it!

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

I just throw in a pair of generic wooden break apart chopsticks. Without a paper wrapper they fit perfectly in the slot. Been using a couple of these boxes for about 8 months and love them to bits, best boxes I own. Sad to hear the maker is closing it. :'(

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

I just used the XL version of this I ordered from Bento&Co for the first time. While this is the first Bento I ever used (and it just had a load of stir-fried noodles in it) it seems quite useful. Take note that the XL version is slightly different from the one reviewed here. The photos on the Bento&Co website show the differences but aren't all that clear. For all intents and purposes its design is the same, but the single divider is a lot thinner and doesn't fit as snugly as I would have liked and it doesn't have the Idea label on top. Instead it features a half-globe logo and an odd, possibly hippie-inspired Engrish poem: "WONDERFUL EARTH / Sunshine in the Sky! Water & Green in the Field! Beautiful Hear for People!"

It still seems like a very solid bento to use and I look forward to packing leftovers in it. As spiritracker said, it's a shame the interior dividers don't match the outer colour. I'd still recommend it though. :]

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

It is very good thinking of your for a bento box. The other thing that attracts me is the parts of the bento box are really very good about it and have many section to put a lot of verities in it. and in the end I can say quite frequently that it will have a lot success in future, I think that anyone who reads about it cannot be easy for it to forget about it and in the end a great thanks for your review of bento box.

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plastic composition?

I've been sorely tempted to pick up one or two of these ever since reading this review, but does anyone have any information about the type of plastic used? I'm kind of paranoid about BPA these days.

Re: plastic composition?

You may find this article useful.

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

Just thought I'd let you know - this is now on sale for $18 at the link you provided. They only have the white one left in the medium size.

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

I just brought this with two other bento boxes. Wish I discover that site sooner they have/had a lot of nice bento boxes. I miss out on a lot of sales.

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

Now I'm jealous of all the new Bento designs coming out... I have a simple blue bento with one divider but it still works quite well (not to mention that I got it at $2.80) :D

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

Oh that's a nice box. I like the chopsticks too. I have the JList thermal Totoro one but it came with a fork, not chopsticks. I haven't used it because my exjob provided plastic utensils, but it's really nice that it's there if I need it!

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

I love the flexibility of this bento box, but do you know if it is PBA, phalate- free, etc.? If not, do you have any thoughts on what the best bento box is that doesn't contain these chemicals?

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

I just found this box (the bigger black one) In a Japanese store for 240 Yen ! I don't understand why all the online store offer it for more than 20 dollars which is like 10 times the original price. It is quite a nice box to have though, very good for a beginner.

Re: Bento box review: The Idea bento box may just be the ...

The company that made the Idea box actually went out of business unfortunately, so there is a chance you were lucky enough to stumble on some end-of-stock deal.

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