Thursday, March 29, 2012

Revisiting Kraving Kabob

Lunchtime today presented an opportunity for another visit to try Kraving Kabob again.  The last time there were issues with my order for no apparent reason, but when I tweeted the blog post, they did reply to offer a freebie on my next visit.  And with this visit (sans freebie) it was clear they genuinely want to try and please their customers.  I ordered something off-menu knowing the ingredients were on-board, although not at all to test them.  Kraving Kabob offers a couple of chicken options and also a steak & cheese, so I asked if they could do a chicken-steak and cheese.  "No problem, we want you to be happy" was the cheerful reply.  While I ended up taking all the filling and eating it on 1/2 the sub roll, I think this may be a sandwich they should consider adding to the menu.  I was grateful it came with the same flavorful green sauce without having to ask, as I had forgotten about it from last time.  It was otherwise about what you'd expect: chopped chicken kabob and cheese on a long roll.

Since my November visit, they've changed the brand they use for french fries, plus they are now served loosely wrapped in aluminum foil which wasn't completely closed so the steaming problem has gone away ... major improvements for both points.  I'd like to see some sauces available to the customers on the counter for adding to sandwiches or for fry dipping, but when I asked for white sauce for my fries, it didn't seem to be too big a deal other than it took attention away from the person trying to order from the same guy.

One no-no that I called Goode's out on back in October is the surcharge on credit cards, but was more egregious at Kraving Kabob.  My order was $8 and I handed over my credit card.  In this case I was told about the $.50 surcharge after the card was scanned, to which I replied "I would have paid cash then, had I known."  Apparently Kraving Kabob makes two trucks (that I know of) which charge to take credit, to my point related to Goode's Mobile Kitchen:
"...although I did find the $.50 charge to use credit off-putting.  No other truck charges for credit, or they take cash only.  Especially when the charge from Square (for example) is $.22-.27 on Goode's average order, how come $.50? ... so I'd reconsider the substantial up-charge on the credit payments."
At least Goode's told me up-front and didn't swipe my card before advising of the charge.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Now for some math

If 1/2 the Indian trucks serve kabobs, and if 1/2 the kabob trucks serve halal, and then if 1/2 the halal trucks serve gyros, and moreover if 1/2 the gyro trucks serve shawarmas, that equals how many of such trucks are out in DC right now?  17!  With that rough count, it's nearly 20% of trucks, not including carts.  Now I know they're not all the same, but I think you can see my thought process in this case, and now it's time to add one more!  Mayur Kabob House Curry & Kabobs.

According to the owner, they've been out for about a week, but another one without Twitter, so it's hard to know when and where.  (He did say he was hoping to be @TandooriTime by tomorrow ... we'll see.)  This is also the next in the growing line of brick-and-mortar shops to go mobile.  While I have an Indian friend who swears by the restaurant, I have another Indian friend who would prefer the food from the truck be more spicy.  (I tried to explain the truck is probably stuck trying to appeal to a broader audience by not kicking up the heat too much.)  3 honks with good potential to move up:
Mayur Kabob House (No Twitter yet, but hoping to become @TandooriTime) -- I was all set to slot the newest addition to the Indian food truckers (and friends, etc) in at 3.5 honks but thought better of it when I looked at what other trucks are in at 3 & 3.5 respectively.  However, this one has distinct possibilities to move up because I loved the flavors of everything.  The issues I had were with execution of 3 of the 6 items I ate.  First of all, I really enjoyed both the dal and the channa ... no concerns with either.  The naan was also better than Flavors of India in that it wasn't as dense.  But when I got to both the Seekh kabob and the buttered chicken, despite the pleasing tastes, the dry meat couldn't be overcome in either case.  Then the last challenge was with the rice.  While it was light and properly cooked, it was quite watery.  (No joke; I was shocked.)  I'll for sure try them again to see if the problems relate to opening-week jitters.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ice Cream Treat Season Has Begun!

After a mild winter, the cold treat trucks are beginning to come back out of the woodwork, starting with Scoops2U who's joined in the food truck party quite a bit as of late.  At the end of last season they were just starting out and you could occasionally find them randomly offering free 1/2 chipwiches at DCs usual truck locations.  With the recent warm weather, you can now regularly get whole sandwiches and cones (including in "specialty" flavors like pretzel and chocolate chip cookie cones) are available for $3.  That makes Scoops one of the best deals in DC.  

Look at it this way -- can you walk out of a 7-Eleven and get a mass-produced, probably freezer-burned chipwich for less than $2?  Unlikely.  For a buck more than that, this one is made on the spot with fresh baked cookies (or brownies, etc) and homemade ice cream.  Go early in the day rather than later because the cookies are softer, making the whole package substantially easier to eat.  Trust me on that one... I had one last week late in the day, and while delicious, the slightly harder cookie made taking a bite quite difficult as much of the ice cream just got squeezed out the back.

It also sounds like Sinplicity will come out to play again pretty soon, starting with weekend farmers markets and hopefully the truck soon after.  (CAN'T WAIT!!!)  I haven't heard anything from the Orange Cow or Pleasant Pops, but I have no doubt they both are making plans for 2012 launches.  Plus Goodies will be launching soon, which I am very much looking forward to.

As it turned out, this became a week of catching up with a couple old friends after hitting up Hula Girl, and today Far East Taco Grill.  I hadn't seen either Mikala or Alex in quite a while as I continually try to keep up with the new trucks and spread the love (...a near impossible task...) but it's always nice to return to old standbys that always deliver.  Thanks M & A, as always.  Happy weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More Indian Food

Well, it was my first stumble across the latest Indian food truck to hit DC's streets earlier today, but the owners of Kebatik said they've been out and around for a couple of weeks.  The nondescript red truck with no name has 4 menu items:

Standing outside the window, you can see the chicken shawarma roasting on it's spit, and it looked awesome, though I opted to try the chicken biryani instead.  While the rice was well cooked and nicely flavored as rice, there were some really large pieces of several spices which were unpleasant to bite in to ... chunks of hard cinnamon and whole, pretty aggressive caraway seeds.  Right or wrong from traditional biryani, I was also expecting "chunks" of chicken running through the rice, more cubed or shredded, but this was two roasted chicken legs with the rice piled on top.  A well of "gravy" was served in one of the smaller pockets of the takeout container, which, when coupled with the mint and hot sauces also served on the side, summed up everything to make a pretty decent dish.  (The gravy had a stray shrimp, presumably from the curry; let's just say I am unlikely to be ordering that in the future.)

The simple salad on the side left a lot to be desired, however.  I think the greens were washed and then sat heavy for quite a while as they had a texture and taste that really failed.

Next time I'll probably ask if I can have the shawarma chicken in biryani rice, and I think that will be a real winner.  Nice, engaging folks, but only 3 honks for my first time. 

I also gave Fojol Brothers of Volathai another try, ordering a dingo bite of Beef Massaman.  It's a coconut-based curry, a little similar to Panang, with beef and potatoes.  While I wasn't in love with my first visit, I'm much more optimistic after this experience.  The massaman will be my Thai "BB Gun" -- with the Fojols, that's a double buttered chicken from Merlindia, a double beef berbere from Benethopia, and now will be a double beef massaman from Volathai.  (While I can actually order that way at the first two, we'll have to see if the same will work at here...)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sang has returned west of 14th Street

It seems like forever since Sang has been on this side of 14th Street NW, particularly considering at one point GWU was visited at least two days a week.  But today she popped her Farragut cherry for the first time... on a day that almost felt like a Farragut Friday given the volume of mobile eateries lining the square.  For me personally, it's been probably a year since I've had the chance to have some BBQ meatballs with noodles.  In that time, the prices seem to have remained about the same, yet you can see from the photos on the Ratings page 1/2 as many meatballs are being served with the combo.  Instead, since there are huge pieces of tofu and vegetables mixed in with the Drunken Noodles, so if those are your sort of thing, no problem because plenty of both comes with the noted side.  I will say however, the lamb meatballs were the best I've had from Sang with great flavor and juicy goodness.  (...just wish there were more than 2...)

For the first time, I also ordered an egg roll with my combo, and I was pleasantly surprised by the pork & veg crispy treat, made even better with the sauce which is ladled on just as you are passed your order.  $10 for the 2 meatballs, noodles, and an egg roll.

A bit after lunch, I was finally able to catch up with Stella's PopKern for an afternoon snack.  Having seen the menu a couple of times, it seems like the usual suspects are a large variety of cheese and/or caramel flavored popcorns, along with a french chocolate and salt mixed blend.  And then a couple options for olive oil & some-other-seasoning blend which seem to change regularly.  For example, last week one could have ordered basil olive oil with Thai ginger salt or Tuscan herb olive oil with rosemary sea salt.  Then yesterday the choices were lemon olive oil with salt & cracked pepper or roasted chili olive oil with lime fresco sea salt.  I went for the second option and found it to be light, both in flavor and in that it didn't "weigh me down".  It might be nice for a bit more seasoning, but will say my enjoyment increased the further I made it through the bag.  Prices range from $2.75-5 for a small (think small brown lunch bag sized) and $5.25-9.50 for a large.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No Heart Attack for Me!

Because that greasy but heavenly fat on the most expensive single thing you can presently buy from a DC food truck is apparently (maybe) good for you!!!  Let me 'splain....

I arrived early to visit the new Pepe truck from James Beard award winning chef, José Andrés, just as they were pulling up.  Since all the flautas (sandwiches) seem to be "pre-stacked" it only took them about 5 minutes to get ready and begin serving.  Up to the window and I ordered "the gold standard" figuring the order taker would know what I meant given the small fortune for the (already) most famous item on the menu.  After he chuckled at my lame joke, I went on to indicate I had heard it was "that good" and gently asked his opinion.  He said it totally was and that people "just didn't understand what Ibérico pork really (is.)"  Gee, I guess I didn't really either, so I took it upon myself to immediately be educated while I chowed down on my stacked pork, Serrano ham, caramelized onions, roasted green peppers, and alioli on a thin fresh baked (kind of) torpedo-style bread.  This is known as the Pepito de Ibérico.
When I first opened the neatly wrapped package, my first reaction was "I'm going to drop dead of a heart attack the second I'm done eating this insane-smelling concoction" as I saw pork fat oozing out the sides.  Then I begin reading... You've gotta love any yummy-like-butter description which reads:
"...A good ibérico ham has regular flecks of intramuscular fat (marbling). Because of the pig's diet of acorns, much of the fat is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol..."
Healthy, right?  Sure!  That's all I needed to devour my lunch without hesitation and, man was it good.  AND totally worth every penny of the $20, particularly now I've actually done the research to learn how fine the primary product is.  I don't even usually care for green peppers, but the aggregate really made for an unexpectedly smooth but rich, delicious bite (after bite, after bite.)

Ya think I'm gonna give this 4 honks?  Well, DUH!  Don't let the price or the marble scare you off.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Decisions, Decisions.

Based on the known options available from tweets For lunch today, I intended to enjoy a Kogi from Kimchi BBQ Taco.  As I arrived to Farragut Square today for my ritual truck lunch, I also saw a couple of the anti-Twitter usual suspects of House of Falafel and Lasagna Plus, but what would become more interesting was the white school bus parked near the NW corner.  I passed it off as a field trip or shuttle bus as I trekked across the Square for my spicy pork box.  Then while waiting for my food I realized that little school bus had coolers out front and was serving food. Time for a brief field trip for myself!!

There's no menu to speak of, but the side of the bus has several items listed.  

I asked the friendly gentleman standing in the bus' stairwell what was available and how is it ordered.  He said they at least have two vegetables every day, along with buttered chicken and some other chicken every day.  Today they had chicken kabobs.  Still no prices or further details, so I said I'd like to try both chicken options with some rice and naan.  He clarified if that meant two orders or one and I asked if it was available as a single order.  No problem.  Apparently that order was $8.  What I received must have been a sample of just about everything they were serving because I got a huge order including all kinds of stuff.

In addition to the chicken I ordered, I also received a large portion of channa masala and a smaller portion of mixed vegetables (vegetable korma?), both of which were enjoyable as simple side dishes.  (Channa under the naan in the photo.)  The buttered chicken had more of a tang than what the Fojols serve, and definitely had less heat; I wasn't sure I loved it with my first bite, but shortly realized I was quite happy with the sauce which was perfect to dip in to with the somewhat "heavy" naan.  (A bit dense, as opposed to light and lovely they was naan should be.)  Past that, the kabob chicken was juicy with an easy tandoori flavor.  I will definitely go back and award Flavors of India 3.5 honks.  No known Twitter yet though.

Meanwhile, as I'm leaving the Square to head back to my office, I walked directly past Lasagna Plus to learn they've added a number of menu items since my first visit: they now serve platters (eggplant/chicken parmesan and meatball) and sandwiches of the same.  I nearly stopped to grab some meatballs, but at this point I was already carrying two lunches.  Next time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Surfside & Real 'Maui' Tacos

Well, I've been on the road basically since February 15, so I've been going through a bit of a spell of truck-withdrawl.  The handful of days I was home, I made it to Borinquen Lunch Box for another go at that awesome churrasco sandwich plus a quick stop to grab an Ethiopian BB Gun from the Fojols on my way to the airport last week.  Borinquen had a new pizza empanada offering which I found way more enjoyable than the chicken I had on my first visit.

Meanwhile, during my trip to Maui, I stumbled upon a late night taco truck in Lahaina called Sonora Tacos which served the most amazing pineapple salsa on a simple Al Pastor taco, served with a thin guac-crema.  Talk about fresh...!

For my first day back today, I strolled over to Surfside for a second try.  While the regular chicken tacos were not available, a steak taco special was, along with both fish tacos and shrimp tacos.  As before, all are served two tacos to a plate with a side of red beans & rice.  From my prior review, you'll know I quite liked my tacos but took issue with the undercooked beans & rice, so first things first: while not undercooked, a little fresh cilantro (or other fresh herb) would go a really long way to brighten the flavor of the otherwise fine, but humdrum, side.

Also during my last visit I noted the size of the tacos were a challenge and suggested the same amount of ingredients could (and should) be easily spread among three shells instead of two.  After today's visit, that sentiment bears repeating.  On the other hand, the tacos were delicious, albeit explodingly messy.  The steak had nice grill-char on the outside while maintaining a perfect medium rare inside.  Very chunky guacamole generously topped the steak along with shredded lettuce and lime crema.  In addition, I saw a black bean and corn salsa was being served on the fish tacos, so I asked for a little of that too -- for me, you can't go wrong with grilled corn anything, and I wasn't disappointed.
One thing Surfside customers might really enjoy is a variety or two of hot sauce available on the counter for kicking up the heat, to taste. ...Just a suggestion...

While I still don't totally love the rice & beans, the issue I originally called out has been resolved, so moving up to 3.5 honks as I had planned after only the tacos the first time.