Collab Kitchens is one of the area’s many new ghost kitchens – also known as virtual kitchens, dark kitchens, virtual restaurants and other monikers. This one, started by the owners of Bento Asian Kitchen, Jimmy and Johnny Tung. Their term for the type of business that offers kitchen space to multiple entities for takeout and delivery only is collaborative cooking, hence the name of this operation.
One of the new tenants cooking collaboratively there is Doshibox Korean Kitchen, specializing in doshirak, a sort of lunchbox meal with multiple items served in trays, sometimes stacked. They’re known in Japan, not so coincidentally, as bento boxes.
Doshibox’s doshirak meal is served on an aluminum tray with seven separated compartments. Kind of like a larger version of a frozen tv dinner, except the food is fresh and it’s all more than edible. In fact, I enjoyed the food I fetched from Doshibox so much that I could see myself indulging in a craving for its japchae noodles, Korean fried chicken or even one of its rice bowls. Although immediate gratification of such a craving might be problematic. But more about that in a moment.
The items included in the doshirak are sort of chef’s tasting menu collection of small bites. And even though the tray has seven compartments, you may find a dozen or so tidbits under the clear plastic lid (taped shut to prevent spillage).
And don’t worry about being unfamiliar with the offerings – the box is accompanied by a map delineating each item, like a savory Whitman Sampler.
The star of my doshibox was Korean fried chicken, bite-sized nuggets of meat, breaded and fried and coated with a not-too-spicy sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
To the left of the chicken was a compartment with traditional kimchi, soy-braised burdock root, a fried dumpling filled with chopped kimchi and pork belly, and a mixed vegetable tempura that had all of the vegetables clumped together in one light tempura jacket. I don’t know if that was the intention of the kitchen but it came off nicely. (The burdock root wasn’t all that.)
Below that were tubular rice cakes and fish cakes and, moving clockwise, sweet potato noodles, a small plastic ramekin of pumpkin porridge and a mound of purple rice.
There was also a rather mundane salad with strawberries and walnuts over lettuce with citron dressing no the side. And in the center, a serving of deliciously spicy pickles next to a honeyed sponge cake.
A veritable feast for $16.50.
I also ordered a rice bowl, an $11.50 entree that comes with a choice of rice topped with up to four options and the opportunity to add a protein. I sprang for the $3.50 upgrade for ribeye bulgogi and selected kimchi, spicy pickles. black soybeans, and gyeranmari, a sort of Korean omelette that is rolled up and sliced. The gyeranmari in my dish appeared to be rolled with seaweed or spinach, but alas no map was included with the rice bowl.
I also ordered an appetizer version of the japchae noodles, though I might have forgone that selection had I known they would be part of the doshibox. Then again, if I’d known I would like them as much as I did I might have ordered a separate entree size. It featured glass noodles fashioned out of sweet potato starch, sauteed with red peppers, onions and greens. They were slightly spicy and had a pleasant metallic tang.
Doshibox uses the Tock ordering platform, which requires users to create an account. If you opt in to being contacted regarding your order, you can expect to be contacted multiple times. I don’t know why there was a need to send a 2:30 a.m. email to remind me to pick up my food at noon later that day but there you go. (Delivery is also available through third-party apps.)
I had ordered the day before because apparently that is the only option currently. And Doshibox operates only three days – Thursday through Saturday – so indulging that craving I mentioned earlier could take a while.
The owners, Gene Kim, Michael Gillette and Ray Gillette, may want to rethink that model. “Appointment dining” is usually reserved for conventional restaurants, those that still have dining rooms and a staff to serve its guests. Takeout and delivery food is more of a whim, a last-minute “let’s order out” decision. Businesses like Doshibox Korean Kitchen can feed that whim with higher quality food.
Doshibox Korean Kitchen is at 4400A Curry Ford Road, Orlando. (The Collab Kitchens storefront is not well marked; you’ll find it to the left, near Conway Road, as you face the Publix.) It is open for lunch and dinner Thursday-Saturday for pickup or delivery only; there is no place on premises to eat your food. The phone number is 407-440-3999.