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Monday, April 13, 2015

Bento, Delivering Customized Asian Dinners in 15 Minutes

Posted By on Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 8:49 AM

click to enlarge PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane

You may have heard about Caviar (Square’s Downtown-and-SoMa lunchtime food delivery app), which debuted last week, promising ~$10 in as little as 10 minutes.

There is another app, Bento, which instead of acting as a courier for third-party restaurants, lets users assemble their own Asian-ish dinners and zips them over in a car that has two green flags stuck to it. Designed by former Top Chef contestant Mattin Noblia, the menu changes every day and includes a choice of one of three mains and four of six sides (along with chopsticks, a mochi, and some silvery, Space Age cutlery.) With tax and tip, it came to about $15.

Because I’m a cruel, cruel human (and also because Bento is dinner-time only, opening for business at 5 p.m.) I ordered food to be delivered to SF Weekly’s office at 5:10 on a Friday. It’s a pretty congested block of Market Street, near Frank Chu and right above where people drum on upside-down buckets, so I figured if he or she could run this particular gauntlet, then Bento is probably legit.

I got a text at 5:11 saying it was en route and inviting me to follow the driver’s GPS. (In Bento-speak, the drivers are referred to as “servers.” I got his name and number, too.) At 20 after, I went outside to wait for him. It technically took 16 minutes, but I’m not going to fault Bento for rush hour traffic, especially as the dude called me at 5:24 while turning off of Fifth Street to gauge my exact whereabouts. He pulled over, handed me my cardboard box through the passenger window, grinned with conviction, and sped away.

The quinoa with tofu was great, the sushi was fresh and the potstickers were still warm, so there’s no quarrel with the food itself. The problem is that there’s a fair amount of waste. The box itself resembles a smaller pizza box, and each item comes in a lighter cardboard serving cup. It’s recyclable, obviously, but I still felt a little icky tossing all of that. But I’m glad they make it clear that the server gets to keep all of his or her tip, and I can state definitively that using it didn’t leave me feeling like a spoiled manchild, which is also good. Bento was glitch-free and definitely convenient, so although I go back and forth on the virtues of executing every last task in life via my phone, I’d give this one a nod.
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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.

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