Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chinese Food

Since last week when the members of my carpool called ahead on the way home for Chinese take-out last week, I've been in the mood, but was just not hungry that afternoon.  (I'm sure I probably must have hit 2-3 trucks for lunch, and since I'm not a big dinner take-out gal anyway...)  As luck would have it, a Chinese food truck premiered Wednesday at Farragut Square, although I'm not sure they've given themselves any sort of name -- the truck only says "Chinese Cuisine."

There were three items on the menu, and you could get whatever you wanted (including combo) with white rice or lo mein noodles for $8.  The proprietor did say he plans on changing the food options once every 2-3 days, so time will tell how often that may turn out to be.
I opted to try the two chicken options with rice.  Neither were spicy at all, and not a single peanut could be found in the kung pao.  Instead, there were copious chunks of some sort of squash, or maybe it was zucchini; it was hard to tell given the one-note color and texture.  Then for the orange chicken ... do you know how you can sometimes tell if the oil is "new" or "old" when you order french fries at certain places?  Well, besides being fried ahead of service, it would be my guess the chicken was fried in "old oil."  This made the chunks more chewy than crispy, although I give a modicom of credit for saucing each order, so it wasn't soggy too.  Chinese Cuisine fits appropriately with the company slotted at 2.5 honks.  If he actually changes the menu regularly as stated, I might go again and try something else.  No chopsticks, and no Twitter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Still so busy....

I'm clearly very far behind with all the latest menu item "sampling" (plus a handful of re-visits) I've been able to do over the last couple of weeks, so I'm going to try to get a quick n' dirty summary done here to catch up:

Vietnamese Pork Lettuce Wraps from Cirque Cuisine: I swear Chef Jessica is on a mission to get me to eat more vegetables, and frankly, she's winning.  Two large leaves of butter lettuce stuffed with savory, slow-cooked pork and each topped with a giant mint leaf.  It was served with a light slaw of bok choy, cabbage, and fennel(?) plus a dipping (or pouring) sauce.  Fresh herbs make everything better...
Balinese Beef Satay from Cirque Cuisine: This was the same day, so these 4 tender skewers of beef were served with the same crunchy bok choy & cabbage salad as the pork wraps along with coconut sticky rice.  The surprisingly delicate peanut-ty sauce wasn't particularly spicy, but a thick(-ish) hot sauce is available to kick-up anything you want.  Cirque Cuisine continues to be a favorite, and I'm hoping to find time for another Eat Street article to profile them soon.
Funnel Cake from Reba's Funnel Cakes: Think about eating air that is gently sweet and perfectly crispy and you'll know what this funnel cake it about.  IMHO a bit pricey at $7 with just powdered sugar or $8 with fresh fruit.  Gets 4 honks anyway.
Kobideh & Beef Combo from Fresh Afghan Meals: I'd call it a close cousin of many of the other kabob trucks with different variations on the seasonings.  The kobideh (ground meat hand formed on a stick to resemble a sausage but without casing) was juicy and well cooked in polar opposite to the beef kabob which was pretty tough and overcooked.  They were both served over a different rice than I've had from the other kabob trucks, containing raisins and a spice-blend I'm going to guess as baharat (or some other blend that for sure contains cinnamon.)  Other differences included a more tomato-y chickpea side than others, plus the white sauce more strongly maintained its greek yogurt flavor -- none in a bad way, just different.  I probably won't go for the beef kabob again, but would definitely return for everything else.  3.5 honks.

Oyster PoBoy from Cajunators: Plump, cornmeal crusted oysters stuffed in a much-improved hoagie roll from the last time I engaged with one of their sandwiches (August 2011 Truckeroo.)  Plus, these guys KNOW how to make remoulade.  Everytime I hit this truck, I like it more and more.
Gumbo from Chef Driven: Talking about plump oysters, they are just one of the bits of goodness you will find in the zesty gumbo Chef Jerry is putting out. The effort he put in the roux is plainly evident.  As I've said several times, just go and order anything.
Chicken Pimenton, Pork Andaluz, and Corn Fritter tapas from Tapas Truck: Better than both my first and second visits as I truly enjoyed all three tapas this go-round.  I'm hoping the creamy corn fritters stick around a while, although I continue to appreciate changing menus.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I've been deliquent!

Between Thursday and today, I haven't had a chance to write about lots of new food:

Vietnamese Pork Lettuce Wraps from Cirque Cuisine

Balinese Beef Satay from Cirque Cuisine

Funnel Cake from Reba's (will come out at 4 honks)

Kobideh & Beef Combo from Fresh Afghan Meals (will come out at 3.5 honks)

Arroz con Pollo y Habichuela's from Borinquen Lunch Box

I swear I will get to it, although it was all good.  (Particularly Cirque Cuisine and Reba's...)  This post will act as a placeholder for the moment.  I also haven't updated last week's posts in the overall rank Page.  Hopefully it can all happen soon.  Busy week...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

To Wiz or not to Wiz?

No, that's not the name of a Michael Jackson musical based on the Wizard of Oz; it is an ingredient quietly being offered from a new truck.  The rain stayed away and I made my inaugural trip to Phillies Phamous Cheesesteaks, (not that the rain would have stopped me.)  6" or 12" subs with chicken or beef with all the fixings you'd want for $7 & $13, respectively, or a special with chips & a soda for a couple bucks more.  For the first time (I'm aware of) from a DC food truck, these guys are trying something new by handing you an order sheet with a pen when you walk up so you don't have to try to explain your order to someone else ... just circle what you want, or otherwise make a note.

This morning tweets indicated "by popular demand, you can now ask for Wiz."  Typically I order my cheesesteaks with some sort of cheese that comes by the slice, but since I know Philadelphians(?) order it "with Wiz," I figured I go that route on my beef six-inch.  No offense to the noted Philadelphites(?) but, "You're doing it wrong."  (Jk.)  In all seriousness, I think I'm just more used to the way everyone else does it outside of the City of Brotherly Love and prefer the creaminess, texture, and general binding effect the melted slices of cheese provide to a cheesesteak.  So, I hardly noticed the Wiz, but that allowed me to take in all of the flavor of finely chopped, well seasoned beef and perfectly prepped onions stuffed in a pillowy-soft sub roll.  I'll go back to sliced cheese when I make my fast return to Phillies Phamous which may tip the balance to 4 honks.  3.5 honks 'til then.  Oh, and thanks for the mint I found at the bottom of my bag...

Meanwhile, I'm guessing it was not planned, but both popcorn trucks found themselves on opposite edges of Farragut today as well; it is Stella's PopKern's normal Wednesday spot, (although I was really happy she got there substantially earlier than her usual second-half of lunch arrival,) and Popped! Republic was involved in some DC101 promotional event.  I have been a fan and frequent customer of Stella's since she launched about 2.5 months ago, often spending $10-$12 a week on my habit, particularly when basil & Thai ginger is on the board.  Then you have Popped! Republic who launched on Saturday at Curbside Cookoff.  The differences "on the surface" between the two trucks:
Stella's PopKern: More flavors, including sweet, traditional, and more savory options.
Popped! Republic: Kettle Korn and otherwise traditional flavors like movie theater, caramel, cheddar.  Better packaging, mostly because it can be properly closed easily.  More options in portion size with 4 instead of Stella's 2.  Loyalty cards are a nice feature as well. 

For the 8 or 9 flavors I've tried between the two, I prefer the caramel at Stella's due to its milky-er quality.  On the other side, the kettle korn from Republic was an excellent blend of salty and sweet, save the large chunks of coating I caught while I absentmindedly shoveled from the bag to my mouth.  (See pic -- that's wide margin looseleaf.)  Other than the single time I received a bag of way too salty buttered popcorn from Stella, one recurring problem I've had is the flaky part of the kernel's hulls have a high tendency to get stuck in teeth.  It may sound petty to mention it, but I've never seen popcorn containing so much of it, and I can only guess it is the type of popcorn being popped.  I'm still quite content to return to Stella's and will be equally obliged to go back to Popped! Republic.  As such, 3.5 honks for P!R as well.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Truck-Pho returns to DC

Despite the (feels like) long ago announcements of more pho trucks coming to Washington (What the Pho? and PhoWheels,) a third truck quietly made it to market first.  Pho Junkies kicked things off a little less than a week ago in an elaborate zombie-theme wrapped truck.  Presumably the link between the two is because the rice noodles kind of look brain-like and zombies purportedly eat brains... but I'm just guessing on that one, based on the slogan "Better than BRAINS!"
You may remember Phonomenon, a short-lived truck last summer.  I had the opportunity to eat there twice and was enormously disappointed with the pre-cooked, very tough meat, but recall finding depth in the broth.  Pho Junkies offers essentially the opposite: for my Pho Tai (steak pho) they properly used thinly sliced raw eye round beef and poured broth over top, in function, cooking the meat.  The broth is homemade, however it is pretty simple in flavor on its own.  Typically, the accoutrements (herbs, light veggies, citrus, spice, etc) would pump things up, but in both my bowl and in my friend's, the quantities were pretty meager except for the basil.  
When served, you will receive a covered bowl which will contain the noodles, protein(s), bean sprouts, onion, basil, cilantro, and broth, along with two cups on the side, one containing a couple thin slices of jalapeno plus a large wedge of lime and the other of hoisin with a small dollop of sriracha.  My single biggest objection to the whole order was that second cup, particularly because the cup was only 1/2 full and because they didn't have supplementary bottles on the side.  I can surmise why they do the cups, but people have their own tastes and part of the enjoyment of pho is being able to doctor your bowl as you please ... an attribute under tight restriction at Pho Junkies.  I used every drop I could get from my sauce cup, and it didn't come close to seasoning my soup in the way I would have liked.  The fresh steak and noodles adequately fulfilled their purpose though.  Frankly, I'd like a whole lot more than the 5-6 leaves of cilantro I received, and would have preferred to tear my fresh basil rather than having whole pieces, but I can get over those things.

On the up-side, I also enjoyed an order of spring rolls with a mildly sweet dipping sauce.  They were light, perfectly crispy, and well balanced in filling to wrapper.  Next time I plan to definitely follow-up by trying the shrimp rolls.

The people seemed very nice and have a certain attention to detail, just maybe not all the right details.  I will offer props for offering a relatively large variety of protein options, which is substantially more than their predecessor and, so far appears to be more than what What the Pho? has planned.  3.5 honks, but only because the high level of satisfaction from the spring rolls raised my feelings about this truck from what would have otherwise been a 3 honk rating.  Even at 3 honks, minor improvements could easily elevate the score of the pho on its own to 3.5.

In cart news, I was a very early follower of District Taco when he first opened in Rosslyn back when I worked on Lynn Street in 2009.  Even though he's had a brick and mortar location on Route 29 in Arlington for a while now, Osiris has gone prime-time by completing his downtown DC location, set to open later this week.  He posted some photos telling of his excitement this morning.  Congrats, Osiris!!!

And, looking forward to the next truck event after this past weekend's Curbside Cookoff...?  Well you're in luck because you don't need to wait long!  Truckeroo returns this Friday at The Fairgrounds.  (Same location.  New name.)  See my Eat Street blog post for more details.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lots of Revists

As I think about the last couple of weeks, I realized I've been hitting a lot of folks I've passed over for relatively long periods of time in favor of sampling some of the newer trucks as they've been popping up.  It's not that I stayed away for specific reasons, but I also try to keep the blog fresh and current.  I've made returns to Pi, Hula, Sauca, Halal Gyro Plus, Goode's Mobile Kitchen, and more, and am pleased to say I was really happy with everything.  Even fine dining restaurants unfortunately can become complacent and suffer a decline in quality, so I think the measure of long-term consistency among most of the food truck operators warrants a big gold star.

After grabbing my kick-ass picnic blanket sack from Scoops2U (see above), I returned to two more for lunch today.  A couple of weeks ago I had pizza for the first time in a long while from DC Slices (although I'd been going for the sweet potato tots along the way) and commented on how much more I enjoyed it with thin crust rather than the thicker crust I recollected.  Tweet-master Tom indicated, yes it was thinner but because they thought the scale might have been off.  Of course I "suggested" they stick with the broken scale because it made the pizza so much less "heavy feeling".  Without any expectation my thoughts on the matter had anything to do with it, when I chowed down on my buffalo chicken with blue cheese slice today, there was still a really nice thin, crispy crust!!  YAY!  DC Slices is moving to 4 honks and will definitely be part of my regular rotation (for what there is of a 'rotation.')

My next stop was to Rolls on Rolls where I took issue with dry chicken in my last review.  Today's Kathi roll was anything but dry.  I ordered mine spicy, and in addition to being moist with expressive flavors, they weren't kidding when they kick up the heat -- there's some fire in there!  Since my primary complaint was with the un-juicy chicken, Rolls on Rolls is moving up as well, to 3.5 honks.

The final stop was to Scoops2U, not just to return the blanket, but to get a delicious chipwich.  As I pretty much expected to happen at some point, the prices of the sandwiches went up by $1 to $4, but given my comments in my last review I think the bump is totally warranted.  Today I put together a taste sensation of peanut butter cookies with salted caramel crunch ice cream.  Sinplicity needs to watch out for the (slightly) new(er) kid on the block!

I hope everyone has a great time at Curbside Cookoff tomorrow, operators and patrons!  Here's to hoping the rain stays away....

The folks of the Scoops2U truck are GENIUSES!

This totally needed a blog post.  There is a bit of unused real estate on the Scoops2U truck, and the operators have come up with an awesome idea to use it.  A tweet a few moments ago:
Hello chipheads!! Stop by our truck before your lunch and borrow a picnic blanket. Just leave us a drivers license.
LOVE IT!!!!!  Thoughtful and practical.  THANK YOU SO MUCH!  See you in about 90 minutes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How can you go wrong with Teriyaki?

...Marinate some meat in some teriyaki sauce, cook said meat, then hit it with some more sauce.  No argument here!

Last time I was at the Hula Girl truck, someone on line told me she was there because her friend told her the chicken was awesome. It occurred to me I'd never tried it, so today that changed.  Typically I have such a hard time deciding which 'format' to order my meal in, but I've always ever ordered steak.  After that it's always a question of picking between my loves: do I want spicy mayo, pickled veg, and loads of cilantro, or am I more in the mood for sticky rice and creamy mac salad.  The answer usually results in a sandwich order, but sometimes I'll switch it up a bit and go for some of those addicting carbs.  (How did Hawaiian's come to love carbs so much, anyway?)  I'd suggest eating the grilled chicken from the bottom-up so the pieces are steadily glazed with the tangy sauce which pools at the bottom.  Delish!

I also had an opportunity to taste the Kalua pork today, and as a result I offer this PSA to the handful of folks who have either commented on this blog or told me in person the pork is salty:  You should go try it again!  Not salty, just succulent noshing.  I may actually order it on purpose again next time!  

As always, thanks Mikala!  See you very soon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My affection for tomatoes

...or my lack of.  My background is Italian, so I'm bred to love pasta & sauce, etc, but somehow the love for actual raw tomatoes skipped a generation.  I just don't like the texture.  Chop them up and cook them and I'm ok, but the slime-factor has historically been a deterrent.  After today, I may have to re-think....

When Chef Driven first launched his truck, in one early conversation about his intention to frequently change the menu, I suggested "I'd be first in line when you put soft-shell crabs on."  And today I followed through with my exact promise/threat -- first in line & first day.  A single crab lightly breaded and sauteed is served on a bed of arugula greens with, wait for it: tomatoes.  But not just any tomatoes.  Grape tomatoes, which were roasted until they just popped with a gentle marinade.  So good!  You can't see them really in the photo but amongst the peppery arugula, a nice pile of them could be found under the delicate, sweet, and slightly salty (in a good way) soft-shell.  Thanks, Jerry!  Another amazing salad.

The only thing I can say about this dish that would be unfavorable is it wasn't very filling as it only had the one crab.  I called Bayou Bros out a couple of weeks ago for their soft-shell offering, although I did fail to say it was actually 2 crabs when comparing it to Sabor'a Street, whose portion also came with 2 crabs:
"At $14, the sub (+Lays chips) is the same price as the last time DCers had soft-shells being served from a truck, but the earlier one was executed substantially better and came with a high-end side."
Bottom line, yet still considering the quality Chef Driven puts out, it's my opinion $14 is pretty expensive for this with only one crab, but would happily pay $16ish for two crabs.

Still hungry, I also grazed on another new menu item, which, lucky for me, had more of those luscious tomatoes.
What you see above are two cornmeal-crusted fried oyster tacos, stuffed with a mixed veg slaw, chopped lettuce greens, and a tarragon green goddess dressing.  The slaw had thin, beautiful slices of green onion, offering a mild onion flavor as well, without being over powering.  Biting in to one of the 5 plump oysters earned a pleasant pop of juiciness.  That, coupled with the crunch of everything else, made for yet another new, impressive twist on a taco.

Just go.  Really.  I can't say that enough!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Yet Another Gyro (and such) Truck

Based on tweets, it seems New York Gyro & Kabob has been out a while, but has been focused at Metro Center for about a month.  With its (possible?) inaugural visit to Farragut, I ordered my regular chicken over rice to compare apples with apples.  Maybe they do things different in New York than they do with halal here, but this platter definitely did not work for me.  Dry chicken.  A red sauce which was more tomato-y than anything else, and not particularly spicy as I'd otherwise be expecting.  White sauce had an aggressive Greek yogurt flavor.  (While I understand it is one of the ingredients, other trucks are far more successful at mellowing the taste.)  The channa was very mushy but the rice was decent.  I also didn't understand the chunks of green bell peppers1.5 honks.  BTW -- I don't think the propane tank is up to code....?  (Granted, I have no idea what code, but this looks really dangerous.)

Meanwhile, I also hit Sauca for the first time in about a year for a Mexicali Fish Taco.  Another one I don't know for sure why I stayed away so long ... OK, I do know and it's because I've been spending so much time trying to sample all the new trucks, but still...