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A Korean and Japanese fusion restaurant offering sizzling bibimbap bowls, entrancing green glass noodles and hulking bulgogi burritos comes to Frandor to market its off the wall creations.
“There are a lot of Asian restaurants in the East Lansing and Frandor area. We wanted to be a little different,” owner Frank Cheng said.
“Americans like to have finger food and something they can grab like tacos and burritos. Koreans are known for marinated barbecue meats and K-Mex is getting very popular in the East and West Coast areas.”
With its two-week soft opening behind it, will host its grand opening Jan. 16 with a classic rice bowl with kimchi and choice of meat for $5 until Jan. 19.
Cheng, a New York native from Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood, moved to Lansing in the early 2000s with his parents and started longtime Lansing Chinese takeout staple China Garden on Mt. Hope. He spent the last 20 years in the local food industry, working with several different Asian cuisines around Lansing, including operating the former Xiao Asian Bistro on Saginaw Street.
“Millennials want more diverse food. You see it across the spectrum where everyone is trying different things. It’s not all hamburgers and hotdogs like in the ‘80s. We’ve been exploring our palate,” Cheng said.
This is much different from the Lansing of 10 years ago, he added.
“Before, you had to really go to Detroit or Chicago to eat better food. But now, you can just stay here and explore the local area.”
An entry level dish that can sum up the Bento Kitchen Cravings experience is the K-Mex bulgogi burrito, Chen said.“Bulgogi is marinated sliced rib eye. It is different than a typical burrito. That’s for sure.”
Meaning “fire meat” in English, Bulgogi is a Korean staple traditionally marinated in soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic and ground black pepper. Also within Bento Kitchen Craving’s bulgogi burrito is kimchi fried rice, cheese, pico de gallo and Bento’s signature sauce.
Moving into more traditional fare, Bento Kitchen Cravings offers a bibimbap, a crispy rice dish cooked directly on the stovetop flame in a clay bowl including seasoned vegetables, Korean chili paste, a sunny side up egg and choice of tofu or meat.
Chen said there is no need to feel worried about trying new food — all of Bento Kitchen Cravings’ staff can walk customers through the menu and explain items if necessary.
“We have to educate our guests if they come in here to see what they want to try,” he said. “Teriyaki chicken and rice bowls people are familiar with, but we also have very traditional Korean seafood noodle soups that are very flavorful too.”
The new restaurant brings 8 new jobs to the Lansing area.
“It’s been nice to broaden the American pallet with different food choices. We want everyone to try something new and get what they want out of it.”
Cravings Grand Opening Jan. 17 Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 310 N. Clippert St. Ste. 6, Lansing (517) 580-8103 www.bento-kitchencravings.business.site