February 21, 2010

Restaurant Review: Calbi BBQ

Calbi BBQ

So after my harrowing (yet fun!) experience at the first annual LA Street Food Fest, I've succumbed to the phenomenon that is the LA "gourmet" food truck following. These are your standard taco trucks, parked in various places around southern Cali, but offering up food nouveau for the masses. My goal is to follow these trucks, on a mission to sample only the veggie options at each one (if available). So away we go!

My first taco truck following was Calbi BBQ: a sort of Mexican-Asian fusion cuisine, serving typical Korean fare in tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. Interesting, right? For veggies, Calbi only offers a tofu or vegetables option.

Vegetarian Taco, $1.99: A blend of veggies--I could make out radishes, but not much else--plus lettuce (a mix of the green leaf and iceberg), cheese, and sauce, all atop two small corn tortilla. I kept trying to pinpoint the special sauce that was used, until I figured out that it tasted interestingly enough like...sandwich spread! This seems to be a regional ingredient for some reason, but it's basically a mix of mayonnaise and relish. And it works for these tacos! The crunch and freshness of the veggies is so good, and the sweetness of the spread with the saltiness of the cheese is really tasty. I actually preferred this taco to the tofu version...
Tofu Taco, $1.99: Cubed tofu, a very sparse amount of shredded cheese, a little of the shredded lettuce, and a sweet-spicy relish-like sauce, all also atop the double corn tortillas. Although the tofu was rather bland and seemed to just be sauteed (without marinade or spices), they were not shy with the amount on the taco, so this taco had a lot of texture and was surprisingly filling.

Calbi-Tofu Burrito
Tofu Burrito, $4.99: Similar to the taco, but with egg included and everything wrapped in a flour tortilla. For the price, it's a decent size and amount of food. It's certainly an interesting combination of ingredients: tofu, scrambled egg, shredded cheese, and a "salad" of shredded romaine, celery, radishes, and (I think) onions. The salad is tossed in some kind of sesame oil dressing, sweet and robust. And unfortunately, this is the highlight of the burrito. That's right, the lettuce is the best part. I'm not sure how the tofu is cooked, but it's tasteless, seems to lack any kind of seasoning, and is too mushy. Pair that with the similarly mushy egg texture (they aren't exactly soft scrambled, but they aren't hard either) and you've got quite an unappetizing combination. The salad added a nice, fresh crunch that probably would have been a good texture contrast to the mushiness...if that mushiness had some actual flavor! The burrito seemed to have pockets of cheese: a mouthful in one bite, and then none in the next. But it at least helped add some saltiness to an otherwise bland meal. Calbi does give you a tiny (very tiny) container of sriacha. That stuff is a little too hot for me, so I added a packet of Taco Bell Hot sauce to add some flavor. This helped...some. Probably the worst of this burrito was that it started to fall apart about halfway through (yes, even I'm surprised I made it that far), and it eventually turned into a wet, soggy mess. The second half went in the trash. Never again.

Follow again? The quesadillas will be the final verdict...

Calbi BBQ
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