City Paper is not for tourists
There are two questions you have to ask yourself before ordering delivery from Benihana: Is teppanyaki still teppanyaki without a chef catching shrimp tails in his hat or squirting an empty ketchup bottle at the most gullible person at the table? And are you willing to pay a $21.42 fee on top of the cost of your meal to eat hibachi in your jammies?
The national Japanese chain with more than 70 restaurants in North, Central, and South America added delivery in 2018 and have been advertising the new service on Facebook with fervor. Commenters ask if their meals will be half off because they’re getting dinner without a show.
City Paper ordered a five-course steak dinner to see if the food can stand on its own. The components included New York strip steak and mushrooms, onion soup, salad, a hibachi shrimp appetizer, hibachi vegetables, dipping sauces, and steamed rice for $24.20. While the food miraculously arrived tepid after a 20-mile journey, the overall dining experience fell flat.
The shrimp were shriveled, having steamed in the take-out container, and questions remain as to why we had to specify a cook temperature for the steak. We selected medium rare but the meat was prepared more to the president’s specifications and most pieces contained gristle. The biggest loser though, was the planet because of all the plastic materials needed to box up each “course,” plus the plastic cups of sauce.
Speaking of sauces, they’re the best part. Make sure you add the ginger sauce and mustard sauces to your cart and see how many days you can stretch them as flavor boosters for home-cooked meals. Piling the hibachi vegetables on top of the rice and dousing the bowl with the ginger sauce results in onion breath but also tastes great.
Benihana has an internal online ordering page, but once you place your order, the site indicates that Benihana uses Postmates to deliver food. The closest Benihana to any of D.C.’s downtown zip codes is in Bethesda.
D.C. lost its last true teppanyaki restaurant when the Georgetown outpost of Benihana closed around 2009. (There’s a Quickway Hibachi on H Street NW but it’s set up like a fast casual restaurant with counter ordering.) Izakaya Seki will occasionally serve a “Japanese steakhouse-style” steak with garlic fried rice as a special.
The verdict? Given Benihana charges a $21.42 delivery fee that doesn’t include an entertaining chef, you’re better off going to Bethesda for the full experience. But if you decide to try delivery, be sure to tip your driver and watch this video for how to make your very own onion volcano.