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21Jan/111

No Tomatoes Truck

No Tomatoes truck

No Tomatoes is an Indian food truck that's been on the road for about eight weeks now. It gets its name from one of its co-owners' food-ordering habits. He noticed he was always asking for menu items sans the red fruit, and so he decided to turn that preference into his truck's gimmick. The cute thing is: the truck's soda-and-chips side display features a big stack of plump, bright red tomatoes. They're free, and you can ask for them to be included in any of the truck's dishes.

Tomatoes on the No Tomatoes truck

I paid my first visit to the truck on a freezing night in West LA, on Sawtelle and Olympic. Their menu included: a kathi roll - a whole-wheat wrap filled with either shredded meat or veggies; a chapli burger - ground beef or chicken on a burger bun with mint chutney and red chilies; and biryani rice, which is what I ordered. The dish consists of saffron-flavored biryani rice and tender pieces of chicken, garnished with red onion, cilantro and mint chutney. I got the combo ($8), which came with a drink and two samosas. My food came up super quick, and was piping hot. The spice level was perfect for a pantywaist like me - it was full of flavor, but not mouth-burning. The biryani gracefully walked the line between succulence and greasiness without once stepping over to the dark side.

Biryani and samosas from the No Tomatoes truck

The samosas were stuffed with ground beef and potatoes, and practically melted in my mouth. To heck with crispy samosas, I say; the doughier the better. These delivered.

No Tomatoes served up some seriously delicious Indian street food. I felt like I'd eaten a decadent meal, but escaped the grease hangover that so often accompanies dishes like the ones I chose. I have only one request to make of these lycopene-eschewing folks: that they start offering desserts.

The No Tomatoes truck

Photos by Oliver Seldman

7Nov/101

First Friday 11/5: Slammin' Sliders, Che Truck and More

Yesterday at First Friday on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, I checked out several trucks I'd never tried before. My first course came from Slammin' Sliders, and my second from Cafe con Leche. Third in my belly was Chef Che's Argentine Cuisine. I then went back to one of my favorites, the KO Taco Truck, for a special pork sisig taco. Coming in last, but definitely not least, was New York Ice Connection.

Parking on Abbot Kinney gets crazy on First Friday. We were psyched to snag a spot right on the boulevard at Westminster Avenue. Across the street, we spotted Slammin' Sliders, and made a beeline for the truck. We got the Kobe beef sliders with cheddar ($6 for two). They were simple, no-frills burgers with nothing but cheese on King's Hawaiian sweet buns, and they were perfect. They're some of the best food-truck sliders I've tasted. We also ordered an orzo pasta opal basil salad - $1 got us a generous serving. This was a damn good pasta salad. The orzo was accompanied by tiny cubes of tomato and cucumber, as well as onion, and I tasted just the faintest hint of the opal basil (a darker-leaved variety of the herb) in the creamy pink mayonnaise dressing.

Kobe beef sliders and orzo salad at the Slammin' Sliders truck

Cafe Con Leche (sometimes also referred to by their Twitter account name, Cuban Cafe Mobile) was our next food-truck victim. We ordered from the Pastelitos (small pastries) section of the menu. Pastelitos can be sweet or savory, so we decided to choose one from column A and one from column B. On the savory side: a beef empanada (also $1.75). The pastry managed to be simultaneously thick and fluffy. The beef it enveloped was shredded, rather than ground. It came with a tiny cup of deliciously tart and spicy mayo for dipping. Nowhere was it specified that I had to restrict my dipping activities to pastry-only administration; therefore, I also dipped my fingers in the mayo several times.

On the sweet side: guayaba y queso ($1.75), a warm guava and cheese pastry that has a lot in common with a Danish. The guava and sweet cheese oozed out of the puff pastry, and I didn't feel even a little bit guilty for having dessert in the middle of my meal.

We also got one of the best cups of coffee I've had in a very, very long time. I must admit that I don't really like coffee: I know, blasphemy and heresy and all those things. This cafe con leche ($2.50), however, was mellow and sweet, with no trace of the metallic taste that so often characterizes coffee-drinking for me. Bonus: it was the perfect temperature to drink right away.

Onward we rallied, to the Che Truck, where we got El Mariachi, otherwise known as a chicken empanada ($3.50). I accidentally spilled chimichurri sauce all over it, making for a flavorful, if slightly soggy, pastry. The crust was a tad too thin for my taste: I tend to prefer it thicker and more robust. The chicken filling was also not quite to my taste: seasoning-wise, it had a lot of heat, but not much spice.

We also got an order of chimichurri fries ($2.50) - the large, flat steak fries soaked up the oil in the chimichurri, coating the fries with tiny, tasty pieces of parsley and garlic. The fries got very soggy after a while, which was OK because we were eating them immediately, but they wouldn't have lasted if we'd taken them to go.

And still onward we forged, though our bellies were getting ever fuller. My husband had heard that the KO truck was serving a pork sisig taco, named the Pacquiao in honor of Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino boxer who's due to fight Antonio Margarito on November 13. (KO was also offering a Margarito taco - deep fried beans and cheese.) We squeezed our way into the jam-packed Brig parking lot, where Chef Chris Goossen told us he'd read a lot about pork sisig before devising his own take on the classic Filipino dish. The pork was chopped rather than shredded, making it juicier. The KO Truck is one of my husband's and my favorite mobile eateries, and this new menu item was just as tasty as their regular fare. Which sold out first - the Pacquiao or the Margarito? On this particular night, according to a tweet from the KO truck, Pacquiao took the title, but it was an extremely close fight.

I can't truly feel like my meal is finished until I have dessert (even if eating that guava pastry means I technically already had it), so our last stop was New York Ice Connection, where we got two Italian ices - one lemon and one chocolate. They have two sizes: "Skinny" ($3) and "Fatsy" ($4), or two Skinnies for $5, which is what we got. The ices sent our son into paroxysms of giggling insanity every time he took bites. If I wasn't an adult, and therefore required to maintain some semblance of propriety in public, I would have been cackling hysterically right along with him - these ices are that good. I was surprised that a chocolate Italian ice could taste as rich as regular ice cream. Plus their slogan is "The Best Friggin' Ices in New York," which is just plain awesome.

After the ices, we staggered back along Abbot Kinney, passing the Slammin' Sliders truck again. We lamented that our stomachs were too full to accommodate any more sliders - this was our favorite new truck of the night, and there were plenty more menu items we wanted to try. We found our car and shoe-horned ourselves into it. First Friday can get a little packed, both in terms of cars and of people, but it's one of the best events for sampling multiple trucks' cuisine. And if "sample" means "stuff oneself to the gills," then sample we did.

Slammin' Sliders truck

23Jan/103

TLofts Food Trucks For Haiti: Review

This Saturday’s Haiti fundraiser at TLofts had an enormous turnout. 25 food trucks lined the intersection of Tennessee and Butler Avenues in West LA, and, from 11 AM to 4 PM, seemingly thousands of people showed up to eat for charity. Participating trucks included Nom Nom Truck, Bool BBQ, Buttermilk Truck, Get Shaved, Fishlips Sushi, India Jones Chow Truck, and many, many more.

tlofts_vesuvio

tlofts_lines

I ran into a fellow food-truck aficionado; too overwhelmed to order yet, we stood and chatted for a while. Like me, he was stunned into inaction not only by the Disneyland-long lines at each truck, but also by the staggering variety of food on offer. The problem with such a concentration of trucks in one area is that you can’t possibly eat everything that looks good. By the time I left, I’d only managed to make it through a meatball sub from Vesuvio, a Del’s frozen lemonade, and a chocolate milkshake from King Kone. It would have been great if each truck had prepared smaller portions of some or all of its dishes, so customers could sample more than one truck’s cuisine: although maybe it’s to a truck’s advantage to fill customers’ bellies so full that they can’t fit anyone else’s food in there. I asked a woman at Vesuvio if she could make me a half-sandwich instead of a full order; she told me they “don’t really do that.”

haiti_tlofts

The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly: everyone wanted to know what everyone else was eating and which truck it’d come from. At Vesuvio, I waited with two other women for arancini (savory rice balls), and we cursed our luck together when the staff told us they’d run out. My friend accosted a man eating a good-looking tostada, and he directed her over to LA FuXion. Sadly, they were all out too.

tlofts_crowd

By 3:15, almost all the trucks began to run out of food. Willoughby Road had erased most of its blackboard menu; one or two lonely items remained. Don Chow Tacos held off on taking orders, unsure it even had enough food left to fulfill the ones already on the docket. Asian Soul Kitchen took off, honking its horn triumphantly (or perhaps simply attempting to clear the road of chatting diners). The Grilled Cheese Truck and Louks To Go left next. Ridiculously full, I departed soon afterward.

tlofts_trash

Notable absences: Frysmith, who had a prior commitment at the Natural History Museum; Marked5, who tweeted today that it’ll be “coming back soon;” TastyMeat (its truck was in the shop); Baby’s Badass Burgers; Kogi BBQ; and Grill ’Em All – as a huge fan of both burgers and Metallica, I was sad this new truck wasn’t there today.

22Jan/100

Tomorrow: TLofts Presents Food Trucks For Haiti

Tomorrow (Saturday, January 23), from 11 AM to 4 PM, West LA's eco-friendly condo complex TLofts is hosting a benefit for Haiti earthquake relief. As of this posting, 24 food trucks have signed up to participate in the benefit. They'll be parked by TLofts, at the intersection of Tennessee and Butler Avenues, one block south of Olympic Boulevard and three blocks west of Sawtelle Boulevard. A portion of the trucks' proceeds will go to the Red Cross International Response Fund. Keep checking this Twitter feed list for the most up-to-date list of the trucks that'll be there. (Make sure you're signed into Twitter in order to view the list.) Personally, I'm looking forward to trying Vesuvio and The Sweets Truck, and eating good food for a good cause.