Journey to the Land of Multicultural Hype (Eat Your Way Out)
Mar 25, 2009
I'm fairly annoyed with myself for once again getting caught up in the LA snackfood hype machine that has drawn me toward more highendcupcakes than I care to admit (let alone Pinkberry) but Kogi actually sounded like a really safe bet. Although there are already dozens of perfect tacos deliciously made to order on trucks all over LA, why not throw in a strange and wonderful cross-cultural twist, topping it all off with an ongoing social media-driven guerilla marketing campaign. Sounds like a fantastic mix. But without even addressing the sub-hysteria--which means I won't give this taco points for everyone in town salivating over it, nor will I ding it for the fact that I had to wait an hour in line to get my hands on it--I have to say it's just kind of unmemorable.
I absolutely love the idea behind this taco, and I have my armchair theories as to how it originated. Someone with a taste for Kimchi must have snapped at the blunt crunch of raw cabbage regularly found on Baja tacos and realized--pan up to an image of a light bulb going off over her/his head--that a taco filled with spiced meat and pickled cabbage might be delicious. It sounds tantalizing in theory, if for nothing more than the unorthodox factor. Unfortunately, it's the weirdness of it all that is drawing people by the hoards.
I approached Kogi on a completely sober afternoon, rather than in the drunken, post-bar state that most people come to this taco, which may have been my first mistake. After waiting nearly an hour in line, I figured I should cover all my bases, so I ordered all four versions: spicy pork, short rib, chicken, and tofu. Each $2 taco comes topped with an ambitious mixture of cilantro, onion-lime relish, sesame seeds, sesame chili sauce, and a duo of julienne romaine lettuce and cabbage tossed in Korean chili-soy vinaigrette. This last element presents a far less robust ingredient than would Kimchi proper, but the vinegar still makes its presence known.
The vinaigrette is, by far, the first thing that hits your tongue, and the last thing your stomach will remember about the meal. Although it's mild in comparison to your standard Kimchi, it's still overstated. And I guess it's sort of a good thing, as the meat is all understated. Most people with a taste for tacos will find the applied adjective "spicy" a bit of a joke, and it's no mystery why huge bottles of Sriracha are made available at the truck's window at which you are served. The meat isn't bad, it's just boring; and the tofu is even more boring. If you know better, you'll drown your taco in hot sauce, and the mixture of pepper and vineger will provide a reasonably tasty, if somewhat queasy, experience. The most frustrating aspect of it all is that compelling subtleties of the relish and sesame sauce are kind of lost in the other overbearing flavors.
Food aside--and bear in mind that this is a food review--I find the very contemporary slant of Kogi's grass-roots marketing efforts intriguing. It's less a word-of-mouth phenomenon than a Twitter-fueled phenomenon, which you can follow for info on where the truck will show up next. Kogi has also made great use of Flickr, and you can also track the truck's success via its Flickr photostream if you want a visual sense of what the line in front of the truck looks like. It's a very of-the-moment approach, which adds to the mystique of it all. Feels just a little gimmicky, but there you are.
Kogi Kogi Kogi. With three trucks hitting the streets of LA, it’s hard not to ignore the hype that still surrounds these korean-mexcian fusion tacos since their conception almost a year ago. I’ve been following Kogi, and despite the three trucks and diverse locations, I still never have managed to make it to the right spot. Or have been hungry or desperate enough to wait in line. One night I was peeping the menu online, contemplating organizing a trip the The Brig … more
Kogi is the new Pinkberry. The wait was about an hour. But after the first bite I was hooked. I am completely addicted to Kogi BBQ and thoughts of these delicious Korean BBQ tacos continues to haunt me days later. Nightly the Verde y Roja trucks deploy to spots around LA. Eager foodies queue up anticipating these delectable morsels. The line snakes around the block. All of this for ... a taco? Yes. One … more
"Seriously, why do people like this place so much?! I hit the Kogi truck this weekend when they were in Culver City for an afternoon appearance. I was pretty excited for it too. I went to the truck once on a Friday night and gave up after seeing the massive line. But the other day I was up for the line. Thankfully I had good company because the best part of the experience was waiting in line. We cracked jokes and laughed the whole time. After about an hour and a half … more
I'm a community manager at Lunch and think I know a thing or two about quirky industrial design, indie rock, lowbrow art, contemporary British authors, Mediterranean cuisine, chihuahuas -- pretty much … more
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