Chef Marcus Eng has long visualized running his own kitchen specializing in ekiben, the Japanese train-station meals served in decorative bento boxes. But the coronavirus shutdown nudged him and fellow chef Sam Soell into starting up their business a little sooner than he'd imagined. The result is Kitsune, a bento box delivery service operating out of the kitchen at American Bonded.
"Honestly, this has always been the next move for me," Eng explains. "We were working at Tavernetta when restaurants closed. I would get there early and do prep work before everyone else got there."
Part of the reason for Eng's early-bird gig was that he is also a chef-instructor for Culinary Quick Start, a free cooking school at the Emily Griffith Technical College. But with the program on hold while the college's live classes are shut down and Tavernetta closed until May 11 (when Denver restaurants are set to reopen), the two chefs decided that now was as good a time as any to launch a to-go program.
Kitsune's bento boxes come in a seasonally changing variety; each box is a balanced meal of proteins, vegetables, rice, noodles and other Japanese-inspired ingredients. Eng says the rice is organic and most of the other ingredients are sourced from Colorado farms when possible, an ethos that the chef has carried with him from previous chef positions at the Way Back and Acorn. Soell adds his own Pacific Rim experience from his time in Hawaii, including at Morimoto in Maui. Choices could include roast chicken thigh with maitake mushrooms, quail eggs and an assortment of tempura veggies and sashimi, or tofu salad with pickled vegetables and tamago, for example.
"We're one of the more upscale delivery options around," Eng states. He says that the long-term goal will be to also deliver larger orders to bigger groups and corporate meetings once things return to a more normal state of affairs.
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The chefs chose the fox, or kitsune, as the company mascot because it represents good fortune. "Foxes are kind of the patron animal of rice paddies and guardians of rice, sake and agriculture," Eng notes, adding that they're also swift messengers — an apt representative for a food delivery service.
Kitsune's logo is an origami fox, and Eng encourages customers to try their own hand at origami by removing the paper label on their compostable bento boxes. He's even running an origami contest to see who can come up with the best design.
Kitsune is currently open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Orders can be placed on the Kitsune website or by calling 303-868-3703; delivery fees are based on your proximity to American Bonded, at 2706 Larimer Street.