Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Grand Preview: Kogi BBQ Taco Truck

A few months back, there was an interesting discussion that I never thought would lead to an absolute success. While having lunch with Pleasure Palate at an average shabu shabu joint, Jazz Cat Cafe, she shared with me on a little buzz about a private tasting event that was held the previous day at a taco truck. Not just any taco truck that slobbed a taco, but with an unique twist: Tacos infused with Korean influences.

Pleasure Palate gave me a very exclusive look at those photos and told me a little background story on how the founders were able to conceive the idea of having tacos with a little Korean flavors infused on to a cuisine that usually reserved for a portable Mexican street food vendors. 

They apparently brainstormed the idea after a few drinks one night when they thought it would be cool if they could able to find one of these post-drinking munchies somewhere in town. Then the business ventures took over when the group of friends thought it's possible to pull this off. Her review and her stories with the founder can be read here.

I did have a reservation about something like this. I'm pretty sure there are detractors out there that would gladly pointed out that they could do something like this at home easily. I'm probably one of those that would like to see how these tacos would be able to stand out against the traditional munchies that have been polarized and have been etched in the minds of every Angelenos who are used to seeing these trucks parked next to their favorite dance/music venues.

In order to track these guys down, you would have to find out where their truck would be stationed at in their website or follow them with updates from twitter. On a mundane Saturday night with nothing better to do, I was able to follow their status when I checked out the twitter updates in that they were going to be stationed in downtown LA spot, two blocks away from the Hipster's fave Wurstküche bar/restaurant (the review will come shortly).

I was thinking to myself that I was going to be the loneliest guy in a sketchy, dark street trying to get tacos. To my amazement, since Pleasure Palate's review and a big word of mouth from the previous station posts in Hollywood area, they have been able to attract legions of fans forming a snake like line leading up to the ordering window. It's a good (or bad) sign that I have to wait patiently before I can place my order. Like a huge pig I really am, I ordered every taco listed in their menu.

The big selling item that seems to get the raves were the short beef rib (bulgogi) tacos, but I have heard the spicy pork tacos were picking up the votes as the favorites as of late. Indeed those two varieties of meat are popular among Korean BBQ fans and I can vouched for their delicious popularity. It was not not surprising to see those two meat on a taco, but I was dying to check out one other item that fancied me: The Korean Tofu taco.

Short Beef Rib (left picture), Spicy Pork and Korean Chicken Taco

If there was ever something that would baffle me because of the concept and yet astound me by convincing me that I was wrong, the tofu taco would be the item to do it. In a surprising fashion, the tofu taco is my favorite among the four tacos that Kogi had offered on their menu. I honestly thought the concept of a tofu taco would required them to deep fried the item to ensure it's not too soft, but surprisingly it was not too crunchy to be stiff and not too soft either to make it a delicious item.

Korean Tofu Taco

Along with the three popular mentioned proteins, you can also get the Korean Chicken with either in a taco fashion or in a burrito format. With the burritos, they substitute the beans with potatoes, which make me a happy camper as I never really enjoyed any beans on my burritos.

Kogi (Korean translation for "meat") BBQ Taco Truck is still a work in progress as they are still trying to introduce new items or make adjustment to their menu. In the past, I have heard that they had introduced Short Beef rib sliders (which I had seen a photo) and a breakfast burrito (with egg, hashbrown, and cheese along with your choice of meat) on their limited menu lineup. 

For that evening, they introduced a Hot Dog with Kimchi sauerkraut on a toasted flat bread as a bun as part of their New Year's specials. I hope they keep the hot dog (as it was surprisingly good even if you were not drunk and needing a sober snack) and bring in the breakfast burrito back to their menu.

Kogi Hot Dog with Kimchi Sauerkraut

With ongoing menu additions being on a fast track to be added and a slew of Vegetarian options being introduced, they are putting together a menu that will satisfy a crowd in LA that is looking for an alternative that is vastly different from a boring standard. 

Getting something old that people are familiarized with and reintroducing it in a hipper fashion have been welcomed by customers of all ages. It has gotten to a point where I witnessed the taco truck was attracting crowds that is slowly transforming from a cult to being accepted by the general public.

There are two compelling reasons for chasing this truck even whether you are sober or not. One is that the ingredients are fresh when the items are being made. You'll appreciate that if you don't want your tacos to take an upchuck. Second, the tacos and burritos are very light and not heavy. Even if you are looking for munchies after pouring down a few brew at your local bar, the tacos from Kogi will fill your up without trying to be a mixologist with your stomach. Trust me, there is a reason on why some of these trucks are affectionately known as the "roach coach". Not Kogi.

You probably need to get to the assigned location early enough before an absolute certain long line will be forming. Because of a small minor law, the taco truck does need to be on the move after a given certain time limit. So make sure you follow their updates on twitter or check their website for details

As in for my original thought on the discussion, Kogi had made a believer out of me. Now I just wish they can venture down to Southeast portion of LA closer to me.

Kogi BBQ Taco Truck
Website: http://kogibbq.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/kogibbq

Kogi Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

I didn't know about this taco truck until your post, it sounds and looks very interesting, and somewhat hip to try.
Um...makes me want to try...tempted...but do I have to go drinking first before I can find this truck? .LOL.

Anonymous said...

Hm, now I so want to know how to start a lunch truck business - bleh! hahah

Anonymous said...

It's funny how they are now all the rave about town. The people who work there are pretty nice. I didn't know they were experimenting so many new things. Must go and see them again. The night I went they made a salad. I would never try the tofu taco but based on your review, I just might be open enough to allow healthy food in lol. O=9

Right Way to Eat said...

Hi MyCollegeKitchen,

Kogi now are trying to go after foodies, rather than the post drinking crowds. They are setting up more of their runs towards college kids or taco lovers at hip trendy parts of the town. They are usually off the busy places after a show or at a very random place.

Good luck on your lunch truck business if you decide to do that. They at least have a hook on their nightly adventures. hehehe.

Hi Kat,

Please do try their tofu taco. I thought that the highlight of the four tacos they have. Kogi Taco is constantly trying to add something new to their menu because they started it off with a limited base, but I noticed that they are pushing more and more veggie options which it is great to attract more crowd. I might go visit them again real soon too!

Uke-Mochi said...

I tried kogi bbq taco truck after i read your review, but i was totally disappointed. i didn't get half of the meat you got (on your pictures), every taco tasted the same, just kimchee. it is a joke to wait for this food from 1/2 hour to 2 hours.

Right Way to Eat said...


Sorry to hear about your long wait as I have heard it have gotten longer since the last time we were there.

As in for the menu, they do changed often. Bummer that you didn't get the same experience as I did.