Archive for the ‘Fusion’ Category

Kogi Scion prototype could be the future of taco trucks

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on December 4, 2009

Man, I wish I was in Los Angeles this week to see what may be how Kogi and MV Designz are rockin’ the show floor.

The Kogi xD Mobile Kitchen by MV Designz is pretty freakin’ sweet. It’s got a fridge and cutting board built into the left rear door, and ice chest and sink built into the right rear door, a BBQ grill and griddle that pop out of the back, a drawer for cooking utensils built into the left tail lift, and a condiments drawer built into the right tail light.

No word yet on exactly what building something like this costs, but my guess is that it ain’t cheap.

Scope the video (start at the 1:00 mark), previewing the ride at SEMA 2009 earlier this year.

LA Fuxion: Interview with Giselle Palencia

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 11, 2009

There’s more than just Kogi, Calbi and Lomo Arigato when it comes to LA Asian fusion. LA Fuxion was founded earlier this summer and serves up a “new eclectic mix of Latin Asian Fusion food.” I pinged Giselle Palencia, one of the co-owners, for some details. Also, this appears to be the first taco truck I’ve ever seen with TVs mounted on the side.

1) Get me beyond your marketing copy. What is “the perfect marriage of flavors and styles by blending Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Latin American herbs and spices” ? How’d you come up with your menu? How’d you get started? Who is behind this operation, anyway?

My partner Mindy is Asian and I am Latina we are the operating people. Funny…. we don’t yet know what is the perfect marriage. We are still researching for a better taste. We came up with the popular Asian dish already known and wrapped them with Latin wraps and added Latin sauces.

2) When did you start? How do you pick your routes? Where do you operate? How much does Twitter help you choose where you’ll be?

Started 5 months ago we operate in city streets. We get request from people to go to different location.Twitter does help but our customers are mostly repeating customers.

3) What’s the best and hardest thing about operating from a truck? Where’d you get your truck, anyway? Do you rent or buy?

The best thing is that you don’t need as much money to start as opening a restaurant. The hardest thing is that we are subject to so many irregularities. We got our truck from Westcoast Catering.

4) What other LA trucks (nouveau and/or classic) do you like? When’s the best time to go to a truck?

Of course, we enjoy our food the best! honestly here in our team, we all have different tastes and we enjoy many of other different trucks. The best time to come is when we are open. Check our website for operating hours and locations.

5) How do I pronounce your menu items, like Xuna and Xen? How do I pronounce Fuxion, anyway?

The “Xuna” is read like “Suna”, “Xen” is read like “Sen”, and Fuxion like Fusion. Give a little more hiss when you say the X. Read it like how you normal read X sounds like xylophone.

Curry Up Now: Interview with Akash Kapoor

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on October 2, 2009

I was contacted out of the blue by Akash Kapoor, of Curry Up Now, a new Indian taco truck based in Burlingame, Calif. (near SFO airport, in San Mateo County). I haven’t had the pleasure yet of trying its wares, but boy does it sound good!

1) What’s Curry Up Now all about? How’d you get started? What’s your background in food/cooking/eating?

Curry Up Now is essentially authentic Indian street food served on the street, where it belongs. We have mixed in some burritos and tacos in the menu to keep the spirit of a lonchera.

We originally thought about this 10 years ago but other business interests kept us from getting started. Seeing the success of Kogi and other ethnic trucks in SoCal, rekindled the idea and three to four months later, here we are. We have absolutely no background in the food business. We are foodies who have a passion for cooking and sharing.

2) What trucks have been your inspiration? Why start a truck, anyway? What are your favorite local trucks and why?

The success of Kogi and other trucks in LA have been a huge inspiration.

Since our focus is Indian street food, we wanted it to be just that, street food served from a truck.

Believe it or not, we haven’t eaten from a truck, local or anywhere else as yet. One of our associates tried the Kung Fu taco truck in the city and had good things to say about them. I plan on visiting them, Liba SF and El Tonayense soon.

3) What’s been the permit process like? I see you’re operating in San Mateo County, not San Francisco. Is that any easier/harder? Is that a deliberate decision?

The permit process has been brutal. The San Mateo County permit was a breeze but most Peninsula cities have been unwelcoming. This is due to unlicensed trucks all over El Camino Real from Daly City to Mountain View. However, we are hoping Burlingame, Foster City and Belmont will work things out with us. Burlingame has been most helpful and have allowed us to be out on a weekend to weekend basis as of now. We should have the Redwood City permit in a few days as well.

Our truck is in the shop this week to be readied for Santa Clara and San Francisco permits. We will be in the city and South Bay within 3 weeks. We wanted to start with the Peninsula and have a truck each in the city, South & East Bay.

4) What’s the best thing on your menu? How did you come up with these specific items? How does what you’re offering differ from traditional Indian street food?

I’d say the chicken kathi, deconstructed samosa with meat & chana and the doubles (from Trinidad & Tobago). The chicken kathi was inspired by frequent visits to Nizam’s, Kolkatta as a kid but we have changed it a little bit. A few people in the family prefer the samosa shell to the filling, thus was born the deconstructed samosa topped with meat keema. We remove the filling from the shell, top it off with chana, meat keema, onions, jalapenos, tamarind & mint/coriander chutney. Doubles is basically chana bhatura Trindiad & Tobago style. chana bhatura figures in the top five favorite Indian street foods and we had to have this on the truck even though its a pain to make on the truck. We have tried to keep this as trini as possible and have been pleasantly surprised with the response. Since the deconstructed samosa is a home grown recipe, I would rate it as the best thing on the menu and it tastes amazing to boot.

Our food is traditional and authentic Indian Street food, however, we have ‘taco truckized’ the menu with burritos and tacos. We will be featuring a curry from a different region of India each month as well.

5) Thums Up or Limca?

None, Pepsi 0 :-) . We will have Limca & Thums Up on the truck along with mango lassi and mint lemonade.

Kung Fu Tacos: Interview with Jonathan Ward, co-owner

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on September 8, 2009

A week or so ago, I came across Kung Fu Tacos, which seems similar to Don Chow Tacos down in LA. Fortunately for me though, they operate within BARTing distance of my house — in SF’s Financial District — obviously I can’t wait to try them out. I hit up co-owner Jonathan Ward (pictured above) for the details.

1) What’s a Kung Fu Taco? What are your various options? What’s on the menu?

Food with fighting spirit. We have a simple menu that we plan to evolve over time with various specials. For now there are 5 options. We have Asian Asada (beef), Nun Chuk Chicken, and Mushu Veggie for $2. The come topped with onion, cilantro, and our spicy Asian salsa. We also have two specialty tacos that are $3: Roast Ruck and Char Siu (glazed roast pork) that are topped with fresh mango salsa, green onion strips and green papaya.

2) How’d you guys get started? What’s your background in cooking/eating?

I have a product management background in the tech industry but have always had a passion for food and cooking. My business partner Tan has his own restaurant called Candybar in SF’s Western Addition.

I had been out of work for a year after the company I was working for folded and Tan was looking for a day time business opportunity. We had been following the popularity of the food trucks both in LA and NYC and we saw that there was a similar niche to be filled in the Bay Area.

3) I love that you guys are finally bringing more of this new taco truck goodness to the Bay. As I live in Oakland, I frequent Fruitvale taco trucks often. What trucks were you inspired by? What are your favorite trucks? How much of an inspiration was Kogi and Don Chow Tacos in LA?

El Tonayense was the first truck I tried when I moved to San Francisco a decade ago and I think it will always be my favorite. As for inspiration, I think that every one of the new generation of trucks owes a debt of gratitude to Kogi for kicking this movement into high gear. I haven’t had a chance to try their tacos myself but I hear they are delicious. We didn’t actually hear of Don Chow until we were well into finalizing the concept for Kung Fu Tacos. I have seen their menu though and it looks interesting. Would love to try their Chimales if I ever get back to LA again.

4) What areas of SF are you serving? Will you be coming to Oakland at all? What has been the most surprising thing about operating the truck?

Right now we are focused on our lunch business in the Financial District of SF. We have a space on the corner of Sansome and Jackson that has been very good to us. We are also working on expanding to do happy hour and after hours business so if anyone reading this has a club or bar with some private parking nearby we would love to talk to you.

No immediate plans to operate in Oakland but anything is possible once we start expanding.

I guess the most surprising thing so far has been the reception the truck is getting. People have been lining up since our second day of operation. We really didn’t expect it to catch on that quickly but are very happy that it did. We are working hard everyday to improve the service and keep the wait times down.

5) What kung fu moves can you do whilst eating a taco?

I have nearly perfected my five fingers of death punch but I haven’t figured out a way to do that and serve tacos simultaneously. Guess it is a work in progress.

Lomo Arigato: Interview with Eric Nakata

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on July 30, 2009

Oh man, as soon as I heard about Lomo Arigato, I knew there had to be some awesome background to this Japanese-Peruvian fantastic food truck. I pinged owner Eric Nakata for the deets.

1) What is Japanese-style Peruvian food? Did you create this, or is this something that exists amongst the Japanese people of Peru? Are you Japanese-Peruvian? Do you speak both Spanish and Japanese? What’s your background?

My name is Eric Nakata, born in the South Bay, raised in West L.A., and a life-long Angelino. I am fully Japanese-American with family from Japan to Peru. I speak both English and Japanese fluently.

2) What gave you the idea of creating this? Does such a thing exist in Peru? How big of an influence were existing taco trucks, and/or Kogi? How do you feel about this sudden trendy-ness of LA mobile food vendors?

Peruvian cuisine is known for the fusion of its many immigrating cultures. Japanese and Chinese have major influence on some of the most well-known Peruvian dishes. Actually, I’ve had this idea for some time, since my last trip to Japan in early 2008. On almost every corner, the Japanese street food vendors dished out their own unique creations that attracted happy crowds. L.A. has the happy crowds, and night life, but are thirsty for more.

The L.A. mobile food movement has not only spawned great creativity in the food it offers, but has also provided a window of networking among our tech-obsessed culture.

As for Peru, their street food vendors are as common as they are in Japan.

3) What customizations have you had to make on the truck? How much has it cost you in order to get it up and running? When/where will you be launching?

Unlike other traditional trucks, we installed large glass windows, and moved the kitchen to the street side, fusing the open-kitchen concept to this truck. This will allow customers and passersby to see the action. Like any starting business, it costs a pretty penny.

My routes will run from Downtown to the West side, and will definitely make a few South Bay stops. Check out lomoarigato.com for weekly stops. If everything goes as scheduled, we are looking towards mid-August for the grand opening!

4) What does Lomo Arigato mean?

4. Lomo Arigato = Lomo Saltado + Domo Arigato

Lomo Saltado is our signature dish which is sauteed strips of tri-tip seasoned and tossed with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, french fries, red wine, and soy sauce.

Domo Arigato is Japanese for “Thank you very much!”

5) How insanely spicy is the insanely spicy green sauce? What best does it go with?

5. Currently, I am working on two types of green sauce: “weak sauce” for the norm, and “kichigai” for the strong. (kichigai = insane >_< )

Both sauces compliment any and every dish!

Frysmith: Interview with Erik Cho, co-owner

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on July 29, 2009

About a week ago I got an email about Frysmith, a new “ethnically-infused” fry truck soon to be launched in Los Angeles. Curious, I fired off a barrage of questions to Erik Cho, a co-owner.

1) Ethnically infused fries? Huh? How do you pick who makes the cut and who doesn’t? How much are they? What’s the best way to eat them? What are they made from?

Okay, “ethnically-infused” is something my buddy in marketing came up with. Who knows what that actually means, and come to think of it, I think that dude markets mostly women’s hair care products, so I shouldn’t have taken his wording advice. Basically, I just figured fries were an awesome blank slate for toppings and proceeded from there with the kind of aggressive flavors that I grew up around in LA. They’re best eaten with a fork. Unless you like chili hands. The fries are hand-cut Kennebec potatoes cooked in canola oil.

2) What gave you the idea of creating this? How big of an influence were existing taco trucks, and/or Kogi? How do you feel about this sudden trendy-ness of LA mobile food vendors?

Brook and I have thought about starting a food business for years but never had the balls to do it. When we were in school at Berkeley, I had an idea for a push-cart with soups. I wanted to be a traveling campus soup Nazi, but anyone who knew me in college can tell you I wasn’t particularly motivated in those days.

I’ve been hitting taco trucks for years, and I love that it takes less than a minute from when the meat hits the tortilla to when the tortilla hits your mouth. That idea is perfect for something like chili fries. If they sit around, they get soggy, but if you get to them right away, there’s a perfect blend of soft and crunchy.

Kogi was huge for us and everyone that’s involved in the LA mobile truck movement (and I guess movement is just a fancy word for big-ass trend). LA’s long been a taco truck town, but Kogi showed that the sky’s the limit if you can pair a good concept with good food and four wheels.

3) When do you launch? Where/when will you be operating? How do you choose you’re route?

We’re getting delayed on the launch due to backorder of some equipment for our truck. It sucks, but we still hope to get going by late August. We’ll keep everyone informed on our site and through Twitter. Our plan is to be all around town chasing events and crowds for the first couple of months to build awareness. Then, we’ll probably settle on some weekly locations. We’re open to suggestions.

4) What did you do before you started the truck? How much did it cost? What’s surprised you about cooking/operating a truck?

Before the truck, I worked in the film industry and Brook was a magazine editor. The truck cost a lot, but we got a steal on the truck itself and good pricing from the builder to make it work in our pretty limited budget. As a first-time small business owner, there are so many more things to take care of than I imagined, and we haven’t even hit the road yet.

5) What beers do you recommend that I pair with your fries?

It pains me that I can’t offer beer with the fries, but we’re doing some kick-ass soda pairings to make up for it. If I could sell beer…the chili cheese fries would be nice with an Alaskan Smoked Porter. Kimchi pork makes me want something dry and light, like a Sapporo. For the rajas, you can’t go wrong with the classic Corona and lime but something real bitter, like a Green Flash West Coast IPA is an interesting contrast. The sweetness and fruity complexity of Lost Abbey would be my choice for the chicken tomatillo sweet potato fries. For the vegan chili, maybe a Fuller’s ESB. In the end, though, they’re fries, man. And fries taste good with pretty much whatever beer’s in your hand.

Calbi BBQ, a Kogi knockoff, hits Los Angeles

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on May 13, 2009

It was bound to happen sooner or later. A competitor to Kogi has now hit the streets of Los Angeles.

Starting just a few weeks ago, the upstart Calbi BBQ has been copying the concept, logo, menu and style of the much-blogged-about Kogi BBQ. Heck, they’re even on Twitter, too.

There’s been some commentary over on Yelp:

“Calbi truck was good…but I like Kogi better. I think Kogi is more fusion and the flavors are more interesting. Calbi is just korean food wrapped in a corn tortilla. But I still enjoyed it!”

“Kogi is run by a bunch of young upstarts who know how to use the internet and be trendy (and think they invented Korean BBQ + Mexican fusion, which they didn’t). Calbi is run by a Korean lady and her husband who are trying to copy a good idea and provide decent food for people (lady in the truck gave me a free extra taco for chatting it up with her. Try to do that at Kogi).”

“I wish I had more time to appreciate the food. Also, you can get kimchi on the taco, but I declined. Will definitely be back, provided word doesn’t spread and the wait becomes obnoxious like Kogi.”

I’ve just gotten back to California and haven’t yet had a chance to sample either one. Rest assured, it’s on my list of summer projects.

The LA Chowhound crew also mentions some other intriguing taco truck fusion joints, including YuriTruck and Don Chow Tacos.

Apparently there’s also Marination Mobile, a new Korean-Hawaiian taco truck coming to Seattle soon, too.

Down in Houston, there’s also Bansuri Indian Food Corner, a new Indian taco truck.

Update (9:15 am): What does Kogi think of all of this?

Well, it turns out there’s an intense back story:

I understand that some peopLe’s soLe motivation is to just go out there and make a buck. But it is a bit sad when they so obviousLy put no souL into it or take the love and time to create and construct their own identity. If anything, I know that on some leveL, it might be fLattering — that someone is studying us like we’re some “business modeL” — though I don’t know if we’re reaLLy something to modeL after, since we go with our gut and wing it haLf the time.

Anyway, this is to be expected.

But… weLL… and this is coming from me — so this in no way refLects the views or opinions of any of the other members of the team, but… in the past we’ve been approached by a mom and pop shop to heLp them out. They came to us in tears, teLLing us that they were about to go under and were worried about how they were going to manage to support their kids, their famiLy.

Being quite the compassionate peopLe they are, key members of the team decided to change our usuaL route to park in front to heLp out this mom and pop shop. Chef Roy even went in to heLp them out with the menu, hoping that our presence wouLd provide more foot traffic to their shop.

And it did.

It was so successfuL, in fact, that the owner approached us for more joint business pLans — but it just was a littLe too much, too fast. PLus, we’re of the nomadic sort, so we’re a bit wary of tattooing ourseLves with a partnership after just 2 weeks of a joint project. So we parted ways… onLy to find out that about a month or so later, these same peopLe compLeteLy copied our “business modeL” from the inside out, even going so far as taking the recipes that Chef Roy had so graciousLy made for them and seLLing them on a newLy stickered truck, trying to mimic the spirit of our bLog posts, starting up their own Twitter feed and using our past coLLaboration to heLp themseLves in their new endeavors. ALso… parking at the exact locations and cross streets that we park at.

It is understandabLe that some of the team members — weLL yes, feeL duped — but more than that, they feeL emotionaLLy gutted. We invited these peopLe into our famiLy and they took advantage of us. Whether it’s to compete with us or it’s because they don’t have the confidence to work with what they know and what they’ve got, I don’t know.

All I do know is that some of the team members feeL reaLLy hurt and betrayed, for had they onLy asked — had they just said, “Yo! We want to start up our own truck too. Can you heLp us?”, we totaLLy wouLd have given them a heLping hand in that direction.

[via Hyphen magazine]