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1Feb/102

Review: Kimchi 21

It was Saturday evening, and my husband and I were in search of a food truck. We'd checked the trusty Twitter feed aggregator, but no trucks were in the vicinity. Hoping that someone had forgotten to tweet their location, we set out in the car regardless. We'd heard great things about a mysterious taco truck that parked on Olympic and La Brea Blvds Thursday through Saturday nights, so that was our first stop, but sadly, the truck wasn't there. As we drove back along Melrose, my husband spotted Kimchi 21 parked outside the clothing store Foreign Exchange, between Curson and Sierra Bonita Aves.

kimchi21_1

I'd seen Kimchi 21 on Melrose many times before, but I knew they weren't on FindLAFoodTrucks.com. That, I found out, was because they don't have a Twitter feed. The server told me that they might start tweeting in May. He didn't explain why it had to wait till then. Their URL is on the side of the truck, but when I visited the site, it was a Network Solutions placeholder page. Maybe they don't care about the whole social media aspect of food-trucking: that's strange, since I'm sure they're a part of the Kogi-inspired Korean-BBQ-taco truck wave, and Twitter seems to be an essential ingredient of that business model.

The line was very short at 6:30 PM, but perhaps we just missed the rush: several people stepped up behind us as we ordered. We got a beef burrito ($5) and two tofu tacos ($2 each), with kimchi on the side. The beef was paper-thin and surprisingly lean. I'd psyched myself up for a few mouthfuls of gristle, but didn't end up having to endure even one. It was slightly dry, however. The burrito also contained the best Spanish rice I've had in a while - the tomato gave it a nice tangy bite without being overpowering. A goodly sum of chopped raw onions topped the whole thing off. I could still taste them half an hour later. That sounds gross, but it wasn't indigestion-related: my mouth was just suffused with oniony goodness. As for the tacos, the tortillas were just chewy enough, and supported all the wet stuff well. The tofu could have done with a bit more marinating, I think; it was creamy and firm, but slightly bland. I couldn't eat more than a mouthful of the kimchi. It had an odd, perfumey foretaste, and by that, I mean it literally tasted like when you spray perfume on your neck and some ends up getting in your mouth. (Anyone else ever done that? No? Just me, then.) After that flavor died down, it was pretty palatable, but I couldn't bring myself to go through the cycle again with another bite. I don't pretend to be a kimchi connoisseur, but I'm pretty sure this was not top-quality stuff.

kimchi21_menu

I'd get the beef burrito again, and I'd love to have a side of the Spanish rice. The tofu tacos weren't special enough for a second go-round, in my opinion. As a whole, the Kimchi 21 experience wasn't the best time I've had at a food truck: compared to the kickass BBQ and warm friendliness at Barbie's Q, or the mind-blowing flavors and attentive service at Coolhaus, neither Kimchi 21's food nor its atmosphere was particularly memorable.

Vegetarian-friendly? Yes, you can get tofu tacos, burritos and quesadillas. There's also a kimchi quesadilla.

Vegan-friendly? Not particularly. The tacos, burritos and quesadillas all come with cheese.

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  1. Yah, Had a similar experience today at Kimchi 21 for lunch. A friend and I were in the Wilshire/La Brea district which is always packed with all kinds of trucks at lunch time. I had just tried Kogi’s tacos and decided to compare them with KimChi’s. Well there’s really no comparison.
    I ordered a beef and tofu taco. My friend, vegetarian, got the tofu one. While Kogi’s tofu taco was soft, moist and flavorful, Kim Chi’s was bland with firm tofu. The sauce tasted kind of mayonnaisy. There was really no Korean flavors here! I think toppings of jack and cheddar cheese and iceburg lettuce also take away from any Asian flavor. Maybe I should have ordered the kim chi on the side as the truck suggests but after reading your review, maybe it was better I didn’t.
    I had high hopes when I ordered b/c the man taking the order was Korean (I’m thinking “street cred”) but we were both disappointed. My friend gave me her taco. She hates mayonnaise.
    Pros:The beef was not gristly at least and there was no line.

  2. 1)Funny. I had the exact opposite experience as the two prior. Kimchi21 “FUSION” tacos rocked I must say. I’ve had the chx, beef, and shrimp, all stellar. This is a FUSION flavor people! Not meant to be strictly Korean flavor, thus the word FUSION in the title. And, if you’re vegan, ask to hold the cheese! Not too difficult to manage.
    2) Had the Kogi in front of E!News, awful. Couldn’t finish it awful. Simple beef with rice…Sorry, this truck is not worth the 8.00 visit.


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