I'll be the first to admit that I've mixed feelings about the proliferation of "mobile cuisine". Part of me loves the concept, after all I grew up eating from "lunch wagons", many of which served up good grinds for cheap. And of course, there are the various taco trucks around San Diego that I enjoy. On the other hand I'm not sure that I share the sometimes cult like hyperbole surrounding mobile cuisine. Over a year ago, I made a trek out to the "OC", stood in line for two hours, for two tacos with barely any meat, drenched in sauce that destroyed some already lousy tortillas. It could be that kalbi and bulgogi tacos weren't new to me.... I recall Alan Wong serving up the stuff years ago, and I've been making bulgogi and teriyaki tacos at home. It could be that fact that I just don't have the patience, nor intestinal fortitude to stand in line for any reason, and being forced to do so just made me expect more and more. I do love the concept, and truly admire Kogi's innovative use of social media to create excitement and demand. But for me it was a case where the "Emperor had no clothes". Unfortunately, my camera at that time really didn't take anything worthwhile, so I never did a post. Leap forward a year and a half, and a group of food trucks.... of course they call themselves purveyors of "mobile gourmet cuisine", have now popped up. Along with the various emails in my inbox, there is, the by now standard arsenal of tweets, facebook pages, and so forth. I did manage to try both Tabe and Kalbiq one the same day. Unfortunately, later that day I received the dreaded "card read error" when trying to upload my photos, I had used the cheapo 4GB SD card I got free with my camera, instead of my usual SD cards and paid for it. Maybe posts on food trucks just weren't in the cards for me. I didn't find the food particularly great at the Tabe or the Kalbiq truck.... actually, I thought the food from the Kalbiq truck was just not very good. Plus, there were already a large number of posts from Dennis and Kirbie on these trucks, and I really didn't think I had much more to offer.
Then a funny thing happened.... I decided to take my car for a carwash.
Call me gobsmacked......
I walked up to the window, and spoke to the nice young man, whose name is Todd, and asked if this was the same "Tabe".... to which he replied "yes". By now I figured it must be fate..... some other power was telling me that I needed to give Tabe's tacos another shot. I ordered the same two tacos I had eaten at the truck, and an order of fries, which I had never tried.
When I had these before, they were tough, and over sauced with a way too sweet glaze. These were not bad. The meat was fairly tender, and it wasn't drenched in sauce.The "salsa" worked well with this, and I thought the addition of tsukemono as one of the toppings was a plus.
The Spicy Pork, which in my opinion isn't very spicy, was way too sweet for my taste.
One real quick note....... I'm not a big fan of topping savory dishes with fruit, it might be your thing, but it's just something I'm not fond of. I found the pork to be a bit too mushy, and there was so much going on here, like a con-fusion-ny Daeji Bulgogi, that I ended up not enjoying this too much.
All of those taste notes are just personal preferences. But I don't think you can get away from the lousy tortillas, which are cardboard like, and end up falling to pieces. I've eaten at taco trucks selling fish tacos for a buck, and their tortillas are superior to these. Maybe the crew at Tabe believes the tortilla doesn't really matter; but I think at $2.76 a taco they can do better.
The last item I had ordered were the Five Spice Fries ($1.38). I really didn't know how these fries would taste...... after all, I thought they were really going to use five-spice on the fries. But at first whiff, I (happily) knew they didn't.
I really enjoyed these, they were crisp, with a nice black pepper flavor, and even a hint of sweetness(?). But most of all, these were touched with one of my favorite spices..... cumin, which really tasted good. Go figure....
Overall, that BBQ Beef taco was pretty good, and I really enjoyed those fries. Plus my car was nice and clean...... so I did leave Happy Car Wash, fairly happy, or at the least content.
About a week later, I was in the Little Italy area, and lo' and behold, it was the Tabe BBQ truck. After my last visit, I decided to stop and grab some tacos.
I passed on the pork this time around, and went with the BBQ Beef and a Fish Taco.
Like Dennis, I found the fish portion to be on the small side. It was pretty much lost in all the produce. I pulled out a piece of the fish and ate it.... tastewise it was pretty good. Just too little fish for too much taco.....
I wanted to try the beef yet again.
I found these to be decently tender, but like my first visit, the glaze just made it too sweet for my taste. I think next time, I'll tell them to forgo that extra shot of sauce I believe they add at the end.
Yes, you heard it right.... they'll be a next time. Mainly because of this:
When I walked up to the truck, "Todd" recognized me. We chatted briefly, and I mentioned that I really enjoyed his fries. My two tacos strangely arrived in a large styrofoam container, instead of those little "boats".... Todd had included some fries for me.... because I enjoyed them so much. I've often said that I understand the difference between "favorite" and "best". Your favorite (fill in the blanks) may not be the one you consider to be the best, and I respect that. There are other factors that make your favorite burger joint/bar/sushi bar/pizza palace, that number one place on your list. And right now, I can easily say Tabe is my favorite Gourmet Taco Truck.
Tabe BBQ Truck - various locations