Photo by Brennon Dixson

Edobox by Makoto has settled on Santa Monica’s Main Street, meaning local residents no longer have to travel the globe to get a taste of world-renowned chef Makoto Okuwa’s unique bites.

Along with his establishments in Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Panama, Okuwa is best known for his restaurant “Makoto,” which is near Miami and owned in partnership with James Beard restaurateur Stephen Starr. Now, Makoto has traded in the glitz and glamour of South Beach to serve up “fast-casual” bento boxes featuring a mix of the modern Japanese and equatorial influenced recipes that he’s perfected throughout his career.

True to Makoto’s signature style, Edobox’s menu includes items like unagi, soupless Mazemen Ramen and more, and there’s plenty of outdoor dining in the open-air courtyard, which leads Makoto and his partners, Sky Strouth and Scott Manlin, to believe it’s the perfect environment to enjoy a meal even with the recently instituted COVID-related restrictions.

“It’s fairly sophisticated; we’re not loaded up with caviar but it’s a sophisticated technique and it’s done in a very fun and affordable manner. It doesn’t take itself seriously despite what shows up in the box,” Strouth said. “The entire intent was how do we make it fun and affordable to make it more accessible to more people.”

“You can’t fly to Miami for Makoto’s food anymore so you gotta come here,” Strouth added, detailing how the restaurant opened when people were feeling confident about the trends of the pandemic so it’s been a successful opening month. “It’s easy to grow when you’re just starting at zero, but there’s been a lot of repeat guests and we’re feeding the neighborhood. Most of the people dining in live within a few blocks of this area so we definitely built a localized economy as part of the experience here. But I’d say the delivery aspect has been big too; about 70% of our sales are from delivery.”

Manlin said the restaurant is unique for a myriad of reasons, including the fact, “I don’t think people have taken bento boxes this seriously before.”

“I think we have enough variation for people to come twice a week,” Makoto said. “We have 36 different menu items that they can choose and pick however they want. And, obviously, we’re located on beautiful Main Street so people can grab a bento box and head to the beach or anywhere they decide they want to be.”

There really is something for everyone here, Manlin said. “We always say it’s high-quality food in a COVID-conscience environment. Because everything has been designed to where we can put 7-feet between tables. It’s all outdoor dining — even when COVID passes, there’s no indoor seating. We also have vegan bento boxes, and there’s more to roll out as we tailor our menu to the community.”

“At the end of the day, it’s about the food and that’s where we excel,” said Shannon Migita. “We definitely have some very serious cooks back there,” because all of the best ingredients won’t do any good if you don’t know what to do with them.

“We recognized Santa Monica was in a really good place to fare a bit better in the pandemic because the fresh air, sunshine and beach are always going to be an attractive place for anybody,” Strouth said. “So here’s an opportunity to have elevated food at affordable prices in a beautiful place. You can imagine, when it’s all over, we can pack people in, be boisterous and drink sake and have a good time.”

Until then, takeout will have to suffice.