If inner SE Portland has been your stomping grounds then you know Tony Bento's. I'm sure he's been dishing up grub for well over 15 years, and now with Buffalo Exchange across the street and Starbucks on the corner foot traffic is bountiful. TB's used to be a great place to grab an inexpensive...uh, well, bento. My favorite was the curry, boasting a delicious brown sauce with potatoes over brown rice. Then you got to go over to the condiment bar and add yeast, seeds, amino acids, wasabi, and a plethora of flavor...all for around 5 bucks.
Since I've moved to the Alberta Arts District and away from the old haunt, years have past, but Tony is still around. A couple of days ago I met a friend experiencing marital troubles and wanting (needing?) to get drunk on sake. Since it was sake he wanted Tony B (B now stands for bummer) was the only likely source within walking distance. It was immediate that I noticed what once a funky hub, was now trying to be more upscale. Gone was the bar of delicious condiments and in it's place were tables and an ambience that fell short of quality, abandoning all of the old charm and bustle of years past.
The place was empty as we took our seats, and ordered a bottle of sake with our food. My meal 'special' was anything but. The chicken was dry, over rice...and what little sauce there was drizzled over the top, left me wanting for the robust flavor that represented the old neighborhood as I remembered it. My meal deal included a small four piece California Roll which I upgraded to real crab. As Bento's menu promises imitation in almost every roll. A hint of things to come.
Now things got weird pretty quickly. I eagerly mixed my wasabi into my soy, dipped, and pushed the first slice of roll into my mouth. After a few chews, I bite hard into what felt like a pebble. Ok, I realize that rice needs to be cleaned and there can be hard objects that remain in it from time to time, so I was just thankful that I didn't break a tooth. Once my tongue located the hard object, I removed it, to my horror it was a piece of glass the size of a large diamond. Now, I realized that my bite had broken the glass and much remained in my mouth. My friend immediately took the hunk of glass from me and ran to the waitress.
Moments later she arrived appropriately horrified, but to my surprise her horror was due to the lack of Tony's desire to respond to the situation as necessary. Instead she whispered a recent story of someone finding a piece of metal from a scouring pad in their sushi, while Tony just made excuses and did nothing to compensate the customer. She also stated that she was fed up by such indecent happenings and shocking behavior and she seemed ready to cry. I told her not to worry, it wasn't her fault but that I that if it were my business I would comp the entire meal without blinking.
Suddenly Tony arrived at our table and with a huge smile on his face he asked us what was wrong? Puzzled, we told him that our meal included glass that l was still trying to remove from my mouth without cutting my tongue and dealing with rising fear that my insides may soon shred. He immediately took a defensive position blaming the rice company he purchases from, letting us know that there is no way to avoid such a problem within a 50lb bag of rice. I informed him that while I appreciate that he may need change his rice provider, we still ate glass from HIS restaurant and that we didn't expect to have to pay for our meals. My friend ordered a rainbow roll that he was afraid to touch. There was no way he was going to pay.
Tony kept asking us what we wanted in spite of our clear declarations, and he also inferred that we should pay for what we had already eaten and drank. No matter what we said Tony kept asking us what we wanted like suddenly we weren't speaking English. He started doing inventory on the parts of the meal we had already consumed and math, the sense we had was that he would discount the meal a few dollars. Then he walked away and we took this as a sign he had finally agreed to our terms and we quickly left. We had gotten about half a block when he came screaming out of the joint yelling for us to stop and demanding that we. Pay for our meal and glass. Astonished I said that what I should do is call the Oregonian, the Willamette Week, the police, and a lawyer. Then he went belligerent telling us that we were bad customers over and over.
What amazes me is that for a few dollars he could have stopped the word of mouth that ensued. I ate glass served to me by his establishment and would have been satisfied with an apology and an understanding that that meal would be free. After leaving we told the story to 3 people on the street, will send a letter to the attorney general, post this on Yelp, City Search, and my blog, and have a fun story to tell for years that will always begin with "never ever ever eat at Tony Bento's"
When we went back into the restaurant to give a $9 tip to our waitress she whispered that if we wanted to tell anyone about this she would be happy to help.