Bachi Bus doing business in South Park
The food trucks in South Park seem to be multiplying. Alongside the usual Mariscos/fish taco truck holding down the Target parking lot, there’s now a Sonora-style grilled taco truck. The Shawarma Guys truck is a Yelper favorite on the next block. And joining the party lately is the Bachi Bus.
Doing business since September, the colorfully painted Bachi Bus specializes in teppanyaki, also called hibachi, best known as charcoal-fired Japanese barbecue. The truck is a pandemic-inspired side hustle of a group of nightlife and sports marketing vets, as well as NBA player Thomas Bryant (starting center for the Washington Wizards ‘til a recent, season-ending injury).
I found it doing brisk business on the sidewalk adjacent that Target parking lot, with one crowd of customers waiting on their orders, another lined up to place theirs. Seafood options abound, including shrimp, salmon, and lobster tail, the latter going for a pricy $28.50. On the meat side, chicken plates go for $15, while I indulged in the filet mignon plate for $19.75.
These entrees feature steamed rice and sauteed vegetables, in my case a tender Kabocha squash sautéed with onions. A selection of tangy and spicy sauces may be added at 50 cents apiece, beginning with the house ginger sesame concoction dubbed Bachi Sauce.
It all sounds good to me, and my take-out box had an admirable heft to it. However, while there’s a lot to look at painted on the sides of the Bachi Bus, when I opened the box, there wasn’t much to see. It was just three separate piles of steamed rice, sliced squash, and cubed steak. A side order of chicken fried rice was more of the same: just fried grains of rice and chopped chicken meat.
The colorful logo of South park's newest daily food truck
I’m an admirer of simplicity in cooking: using fine ingredients and treating them minimally to let their quality shine through. And that’s happening here, to some extent. Good beef, and a tasty variety of squash, help the drab looking meal taste much better than it seems. But I didn’t find enough flavor to justify the roughly $20 price tag, especially with the Shawarma Guys’ super tasty wagyu beef shawarma going for $12 less than 100 yards away.
Add-on sauces were the saving grace, lending the flavorful punch needed to make the meal memorable. The truck has started offering an option to “hot drop” sauces — that is, slather heated sauces ranging from garlic butter to spicy “diablo” directly on the meat or seafood before serving. It’s an extra couple dollars to do it this way, but may be worth it.
An almost too simple plate of cubed steak, kabocha squash, and white rice
One can easily spend a lot of money at Bachi Bus. If you can’t decide between the steak and lobster, there’s a combo of the two for about $36. Or, you can add shrimp for a three-meat combo for $45. Between the available combos and large portions of rice, you’ll walk away from the meal with a full belly.
It’s fair to say you can’t go wrong, but also fair to say the more you spend, the happier you’ll be. It might be that kind of cachet keeping the mobile kitchen busy. Just when I thought that yet another food truck had appeared in the area, I was told that the Chubby Burgers truck parked beside the Bachi Bus was there operating as a second Bachi kitchen, to help keep up with demand. I guess it’s been that kind of year, where people just want heaps of steak and seafood, packaged to go.