Restaurant Review: Calbi Food Truck

    Aside from the quirky dish names, the results of the trend are distinctly hit or miss. The misses are a prone to clashing flavor combinations, while the hits are memorable, unique pairings that give taste buds a new way to experience classic dishes. It takes a chef with a nuanced approach to flavor to pair tastes and textures that complement each other.

    Calbi’s menu is scarce, featuring variations of three classics: quesadillas, tacos and burritos. Teriyaki chicken replaces chipotle, and bulgogi beef takes the place of carne asada steak. But of course cheese makes everything better, so that stays.

    The chicken quesadilla ($8) comes with teriyaki barbeque chicken and citrus ginger sauce in a thick tortilla. Unfortunately, the sweet, smoky flavor of the barbequed chicken that Korean food is notorious for was lost in the cheese and thick tortilla. And while we’d invested high hopes in the sauce, it wasn’t any more remarkable than something you’d find at a Rubio’s salsa bar. The tacos (three for $7.50) fared better — less cheese and the addition of some spiced greens gave more room for the flavors of the respective marinades of the pork and chicken to come through. We recommend you steer clear of the tofu tacos. While it is a difficult feat, vegetarian tacos can be done well. But Calbi’s version is nothing more than some baked, bland tofu chopped up and tossed into soft taco shell.

    The beef burrito ($8), however, absolutely stole the show. Stuffed with bulgogi beef, kimchi, cheese and greens, wrapped in a tortilla thick enough to absorb the juicy components, it demonstrated the delicate pairing of flavors that makes fusions food worth the search. Korean bulgogi beef is subtly sweet and mouthwateringly tender, and this time the taste of the beef was enhanced by the cheese rather than inhibited by it. And whoever thought of using kimchi — fermented spiced cabbage — as a “salsa” for the bulgogi is nothing short of genius; kimchi, a national Korean dish, is on its own crispy and satisfying. The spiced vegetable was a great contrast to the beef, both because of its texture and the spice.

    Combining classic taco truck meals with Korean food, with its rich, full-bodied marinades, is a great way to present classic San Diego staples. Even the more lackluster dishes have potential with a little ingredient re-rationing. At reasonable prices and generous helpings that compare with most other taco trucks and the convenience of its location, Calbi’s taco truck has just enough to offer to push it over to our hit list.

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