Archive for April, 2010

Primo’s Parrilla: Interview with Javier Sandes, El Asador

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on April 22, 2010

Wait, Argentine food in the Bay Area? On a truck? I was curious. I hit up Javier Sandes, aka “El Asador” for the deets on Primo’s Parrilla.

1) What is Primo’s Parrilla? How did you come to start it? What’s your background in food/cooking/eating?

Primos Parrilla is a mobile food truck specializing in slow grilled Argentine style asado. We started Primos after many years of backyard asados with close friends. I missed a part of my culture which took place every Sunday in the backyard with friends and family — an all day asado. We would start late morning with picadas of cheeses, salami’s and olives washed down by Fernet & Coke, Cinzano & soda water — all this while the fire was starting and the meat getting placed on the grill. While the meat was grilling we caught up on the week’s events and kicked around the soccer ball. Early afternoon the asado was ready and we pushed together several tables, sometimes borrowing from the neighbors, and began our feast. This would include- blood sausage, kidney, tripes, sweet breads, short ribs and chicken. We’d wash it down with red wine and beer (Quilmes!) and finish it off with fruit salad or icecream.

A few of my “close primos” and I thought it would be great to bring Argentine asado to the streets of the East Bay. The term “Primos” came after my close Primo “Hammad” called me “primo”- meaning his “best one”. We all began affectionately calling one another primos and primas.

My father taught me to grill when I was young. He taught me the traditional way to slow grill by using natural mesquite and wood — quebracho (wood), I also had to learn the art of patience, you can’t rush asado if you want the meat cooked to perfection. I got better and better at grilling with friends and family back home and started exploring family recipes and began preparing those for everyone. A few of those recipes you will find on the menu at Primos. This and my love of eating, cooking and trying new foods is where I get my experience.

2) I think a lot of Bay Area are going to be familiar with Mexican carne asada. How is Argentinian asada different? Why are you serving up mostly in Emeryville?

Argentine asado is different in that we cut and grill the meat differently. For example- we use the entire rack of ribs when grilling which takes a couple hours. We also grill chickens whole rather then cutting and grilling. We also grill our tripe, rather than making soup with it, we don’t slice our meat thin and flash cook on each side — we like our meat cut thicker. We only season the meat and poultry with salt and pepper as opposed to marinating.

We are serving up mostly in Emeryville to start as that is the first place we are permitted to operate. We hope to move into Oakland in the very near future.

3) What’s the advantage of cooking in a truck versus on a stationary grill? Isn’t it dangerous to have it on a truck? Plus, doesn’t it have to cook for a long time anyway? Do you really do all the grilling in the truck?

I’m not cooking the meat in the truck. I actually have a grill and fire pit outside of the truck (see picture). I fire up the grill about 9:30 am and have the meat ready to serve by 11:30 am.

4) What else in on the menu? What’s your favorite item?

Sweet potato mash (my gramma’s recipe) and a green salad are served on the side. We also make homemade empanadas and serve alfajoes from a local Argentine baker.

5) Schneider or Quilmes?

QUILMES!

Wow! Major big ups to Chef Roy Choi!

Not surprisingly, he was one ten chefs to be so honored this year — and, naturally, the only one rockin’ a grill in a truck.

In his interview with the magazine, Choi told them that he’s had an unorthodox arc in finding his culinary chops:

“When I was 25, before I started cooking, I hit rock bottom. I was almost disowned by my family,” he said. “Then one day, I was lying on the couch watching Essence of Emeril, and I had an out-of-body experience. I felt like Emeril stepped out of the TV and shook me by the shoulders and said, ‘Get off that couch. Taste this, smell this, do something.’ So I went to the bookstore, started doing research and read about chefs like Eric Ripert [at New York City's Le Bernardin].”

But the best part of the interview details Kogi & Co.’s new (previously-secret) brick-and-mortar restaurant in West LA, Chego! :

“Chego loosely means ‘thumbs up’ in Korean,” he said. “It’s like when your mouth is full and your grandmother asks how her food is, you just give her a thumbs up.”

Apparently lots of people are already loving the restaurant that’s been open now for six weeks, with the Chubby Pork Belly Bowl being the big draw. One Yelper described it thusly: “The One Chubby Pork Belly was just as beautiful. The water spinach and peanuts were a surprising touch that added a needed texture to the bowl. The coriander gave a fresh herbaciousness to the dish. The sunny side fried egg added a lovely richness to the fatty chunks of pork belly. WOW. ”

Man, I can’t wait to try it.

MoGo BBQ: Interview with Sam Pak, founder

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on April 7, 2010

As much as I love the Bay Area, we’ve definitely been lacking in the Korean taco department — eschewing it for things like cupcakes and Chinese tacos instead. But since I read about MoGo BBQ in SFoodie a few months back, and then later got an email from the good peoples at MoGo BBQ (Facebook, Twitter), I knew I had to find out what was up. They’re aiming to cover the entire Bay Area, from San Jose to Berkeley. Also, forgive me for the lack of posts in recent weeks. I’ve just moved to Germany!

1) Why is everyone so crazy about Korean tacos? Why are your Korean tacos the best around? What’s the one thing about Korean food that us non-Koreans don’t know about?

The reason Korean tacos have generated so much buzz, besides the fact that they’re delicious, is because they’re a uniquely Californian food. They can only exist in this kind of environment, where we have different types of ethnic communities and foods coming together. This kind of experimental fusion cuisine has normally been the domain of high-end restaurateurs. We’re kind of turning that idea on its head by making it available to the masses in a taco truck. As far as MoGo BBQ is concerned, we put a lot of love into making our food and don’t compromise when it comes to the ingredients. We even make our own kimchi. We take time to properly marinate the meat and make sure we cook it on the truck the same day. Those details are important, and they come out in the taste of our food. I think one thing that people don’t know about Korean food is that it’s one of the healthiest kinds of food you can eat. Kimchi is a huge health superfood – it strengthens immunity and fights disease. There’s really nothing it can’t do.

2) Tell me about your background in food/cooking/eating and what you did before starting the truck. What’s your favorite non-Twittering taco truck in the Bay Area?

I actually don’t have a background in the restaurant business–I just eat food and mess around in the kitchen here and there. I am a real estate investor on the side and have scaled back on that for obvious reasons. I do believe that food plays a special role in Korean cultures, and really many Asian cultures, in that food is about love and sharing. In my house, for instance, if someone cooks something, everybody shares it, even to the point of eating out of the same bowl. My mom would make something for us and say “Mogo,” meaning, “Eat this” – that’s how the name came about. It does take someone with experience and training to take that concept and those flavors to the people in terms of starting a business, and that’s where our chef, Chef Jojo, comes in. He’s been a chef at resorts in Napa for more than five years, and is really a genius with putting flavors together. He makes the food; I eat it. My favorite non-Twittering taco truck? David’s Taco Truck in Santa Clara.

3) What’s the best thing on the menu? (And don’t say “Everything.”)

The short rib burrito. I say that because it has most all the ingredients we carry on the truck: marinated meat, kimchi rice, cabbage slaw, chipotle sauce, everything. If you get the burrito, you get all of MoGo BBQ, basically. We’re also working on a new burrito that’s going to be extremely spicy, the ultimate challenge for Koreans and other spicy food eating masochists. I’m pretty sure that’ll be my favorite once we debut it. We welcome any suggestions for the name of our new ultra spicy burrito!

4) How do you determine your route? Why are you concentrating on the Peninsula/South Bay?

I grew up in the South Bay, so I wanted to bring it here first to see if all my friends would like it. At first, we targeted the local hangouts, like coffee shops and bars. Then word got out, and we started to get invited to companies like Facebook, Cisco, Moxsie, and Google. We try to hit the big festivals and events, like San Jose Bike Party, and we’re definitely going to take the MoGo BBQ truck to other areas soon. We’re going to be getting a second truck soon, and will be taking it up to San Francisco and the East Bay to expand our taco truck empire!

5) Hite or OB?

I might lose some friends over this answer–OB.