A bento box with tempura and black cod at Ken Japanese Bistro in Richardson. The $12.50 lunch ($9.50 plus a $3 upcharge for cod) includes miso soup to start, rice and orange wedges for dessert.

A bento box with tempura and black cod at Ken Japanese Bistro in Richardson. The $12.50 lunch ($9.50 plus a $3 upcharge for cod) includes miso soup to start, rice and orange wedges for dessert.

Leslie Brenner/Staff

By day Ken Japanese Bistro is an inviting place for a bargain bento-box lunch.

By night it's a low-key, affordable spot for izakaya snacks or a heart-warming bowl of udon or ramen.

Forget about sushi (not Ken's strong suit); instead go for cooked treats from the sea such as broiled saury (a shiny mackerel-like fish, $4.50), or takoyaki, one of the better versions around. The saucy balls of chopped octopus cooked in batter and topped with bonito flakes are a cousin to okonomiyaki. It's a bargain at $4.80, perfect with a cold Sapporo.

Noodles are terrific, too. I loved the nabeyaki udon -- an earthenware pot of tender noodles in a soulful broth lavishly garnished with tempura shrimp, greens, fish cake, scallions and more ($11.80). And there's a more-than-respectable tonkotsu ramen, topped with chashu pork, egg and pickled mustard greens ($9.50). 

The cooking impressed less at lunchtime, when the sweet little room draws a mostly Japanese crowd.  The service was a little checked out, but the tempura was light and crisply fried, and the bento boxes, which include miso soup to start, are well priced at $9.50 (plus a small upcharge for a few variations). 

Lunch Tuesday-Friday; dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Beer and sake. 1899 N. Plano Road, Richardson. 972-807-9460.

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