May 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
Keep in mind that I was not the last person in line when I took this.
Despite being in Los Angeles during the early stages of the Korean/Southwest/ican fusion days, and being in the area a few times since, I still haven’t manged to sample a single thing from the Kogi trucks despite all the great things I’ve heard about them. Unfortunately for me, this has build up quite a few years of anxiousness and fantasizing about what this combination could taste like. Well, unfortunately for Yumbii, that is, there has been a lot of curiosity and desire and it’s pretty difficult to live up to years of expectations and guesswork. It would have been nice to have a frame of reference at least, but I do not and this is what I discovered with Yumbii.
This was my second attempt at this truck. I have yet to go to Hanook Taqueria, and I plan on trying them out to check out a more extensive menu, but so far I’ve had pretty much the same experience both times I’ve had the truck. Unfortunately, that is lackluster despite what the extremely long wait line I experienced that day would suggest. Of course, it isn’t always like that—I’ve seen them with short waits at Atlantic station before, but that day was a particularly long wait—so much in fact that I managed to hit up two other places while someone else waited to place the order for us, return with food, and eat the food well before we were able to place our order.
Stir Fry Tofu Taco
sesame salad, wedge of lime
I’d had this before last year when I saw them at a festival and I was told that the tofu and the beef were the way to go. This is what I’ve heard from various fans of Hanook/Yumbii, and it is disappointing when what is highly recommended fails to impress. I enjoy my fair share of tofu from time to time. It has a fantastic ability to really soak up and take on the flavors that surround it and can be a bit of a chameleon when it comes to texture. Of course my favorite way to have tofu is mixed with and marinating in meat juices and fats Asian-style where it can sing with umami, but I digress. Tofu can be great seared, pan fried properly, or fried in a variety of ways (Whole Foods chicken-fried tofu, I’m looking at you). I can see why even meat eaters can enjoy this once in a while as suggested by fans of Yumbii. This Korean-style stir fried tofu as a taco could be good, but it’s not. Again, this could be a truck execution problem, but this tasting played on the memory of my trying this prior. The tofu was dry and spongy and yet didn’t manage to soak up much of the surrounding flavors at all. I’m not entirely sure there were any flavors there to soak up for that matter. Once you got past the thick covering of large pieces of fresh romaine, there was a drizzle of sweet chili sauce which is about as unimaginative and unexciting from-the-jar flavor to simply add on top. The lime helped things out a little bit as lime often does, but it couldn’t do anything to help out the thickness of the flour tortilla. A real miss for me and there wasn’t any particularly exciting or even particularly Korean flavor working to save this or even convince me to try it again.
spicy pulled pork topped with cucumber kimchee, jack cheese, and sesame salad
The doughy and borderline gummy buns of the slider seemed to meld into the mildly spicy, mushy-soft pork held together by the glue threads of pepper jack cheese. The only thing keeping the bite from being entirely mushy and gooey was the thin piece of lettuce and the stray cucumber that I found, and perhaps more textural differences such as these might have helped save it for me, but really it was one doughy mush bite that left me straining to detect some flavor note that stood out, but all it did was blend uninspiringly into itself.
with chipotle ketchup
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I happen to find these kind of amazing. They were wonderfully hot from the fryer, and they have this lovely battered, midly sweet-tinged umami golden sesame crunch and were even better than I remembered them (and my prior memory was a fond one as well). The contrast against the curried/chipotle ketchup is an unusual yet pleasant pairing, and I would consider these downright craveable.
I really want this to work for me, and I want to believe that these are somewhere near as tasty of concoctions as they serve in Los Angeles, but I am unsure. I’m willing to give Hankook a try, but I will probably be wary of the Yumbii truck offerings especially if the line is particularly long. Of course, there are those sesame fries, but even still I’m not even convinced that is worth any extent of waiting for.