24. Asian Soul Kitchen AKA It's Bento Baby

It's bunk oh, baby.

As you know, there are more improbably fused cuisines coming out of trucks these days than you can shake a dipstick at. Any number of said trucks could go either way and more often than not end up being pretty fantastic. The Asian Soul Kitchen (aka It’s Bento Baby) is offering up far east meets deep south: think yakisoba with a side of collards.

The creation of media/events producer Akiko Konami (who is working on a project with the original Iron Chef Japanese, Rokusaburo Michiba in Tokyo) and NYC restaurateur Richard Wright, ASK, just hit the streets last week after weeks of (unabating) tweeting. I have been pretty excited about this one and even reserved one of the final spots in my food truck tour for it. So imagine my delight to see them along Miracle Mile today. Even better, Yvonne called me out of nowhere to see if I was free for lunch. Score! Now I could try a few different menu items and FINALLY hit a truck with Yvonne. We met under the impression that we would go to tons of trucks in collusion, yet this was the first time we actually ate at one together.

Parking was a breeze and there was no line (however there was a pretty sizeable line when we were leaving). The menu, which I had read through on line previously, looks really great. I was having a hard time making up my mind until I stopped at The Sampler, which included 2 dishes, 1 side and choice of rice ($8). I settled on the Nikujaga (a stew of beef and potatoes in pork broth with konyaku noodles) over black rice, the Lollipop Chicken with a tamarind glaze, and collard greens. I also ordered an iced green tea. The food came out super fast. It sounds amazing, right? Well, upon opening the box my heart sank. It looked downright icky. See below.

And the food was supposed to look like THIS.

While it was a brisk day, the food was cold upon first bite. I liked the collards – they were acidic and spirited. And cold. My nikujaga was downright unsettling to look at and the textures that were co-mingling did not gel with me. And cold. The meat was stringy and recalled something I might find in a big bowl of mystery at Sanamluang. The glass-like noodles had a nice flavor but made no sense with the huge chunks of potatoes. All of this was served over black rice. I liked the rice but I’m not sure why noodles were served over rice.

The chicken, I imagine was intended to be reminiscent of General Tso, and the glaze had a nice piquancy but was also essentially candied, like an apple. The crispety skin tasted mostly of the oil it was cooked in and was not unlike pork rinds. I might add that the actual meat was oily and sinewy.

I very much liked my green tea, though.

Yvonne ordered the sampler as well. She went with the Salmon Korroke (croquettes), black rice, an Asian Slider and the Spicy Creamy Mac & Cheese with iced-barley tea. Her box looked good and upon first bite of the mac & cheese we were excited. It was creamy, it was spicy, and impressive. The heat was light but lingered on the palate for a while. The croquettes were fine, but unmemorable. I did appreciate their lightness considering the fry factor. The slider looked good, lotta meat. But here’s the biggie – I love rare, I love bloody in my meat - this burger was RAW. And cold. If you can imagine biting down on that texture, unaware, then you can conceptualize the coup de grace on this food truck experience. 

Now I see why our food came out so lightning fast. It was not cooked nor was it heated up.

Yvonne very much liked her barley tea, though.

An interesting note: the concept of fusion in this menu did not involve spices and flavors from the 2 food camps being married in a dish, but rather distinctly separate menu items from said camps. This is perfectly fine and, theoretically, worked.

One of my peeves in the food truck sphere is when the fine owners of the trucks don’t put out a trash can. So, we ended up hiking down the street in search of one and stumbled across a multitude of other food trucks, where Yvonne ordered a couple of pastels from the Bool truck and I a short rib taco from LA FuXion.  And there we ate our lunch. When we were done we used their trash cans to throw everything away.

Note the trash can.

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