Find me a person that does not love tacos, and you will have found a person that has an allergy to deliciousness. Tacos are plentiful in NYC, as are trucks that trek around the five boroughs to bring them to different spots on a daily rotation. Not limited merely to the classics, many of these trucks add their own unique ethnic touch to make them stand out. Case in point, “Kimchi Taco”.
Run by Phillip Lee, a Cornell University alumni with a Master of Management in Hospitality, spent years working on other people’s restaurants until he decided to make his own dreams come true. In 2010, Lee combined his knowledge of restaurants and love of street food to merge them into one being, albeit one being merged with another. “Kimchi Taco” is a fusion of the classic Mexican taco combined with classic Korean cuisine, making for a modern classic unto itself.
Truth be told, I am very picky when it comes to kimchi. I’m not a huge fan of it, so for me to eat it, it needs to exactly what I want. For me, that is a kimchi that does not have an overpowering scent and tastes like more than mushy cabbage with an abundance of red peppers. “Kimchi Taco” was going to be an eye-opening experience for me, and after much hype around the inter-webs about it, I thought it was time to dive in and get me some tacos.
Seven bucks will get you any three tacos, and for two dollars more you can get four (although each of their two speciality tacos will cost you an extra dollar). The menu has four main tacos and two specialty tacos, as well as burritos for the big eaters, and “Kimchi bowls” for someone who would rather get rice instead of tortillas. There are also unique side dishes, including their take on Italian fare with a Korean rice gnocchi and arancini. Pictured from left to right above is the grilled Korean BBQ short rib, grilled chicken, spicy pork, and Krispy fish tacos.
I ordered two of their spicy tacos for starters, but knowing how searing hot Korean “spicy” is (and how big of a wimp I am for heat), had them prepared mild. The spicy seared pork meat resembled a miniature version of Sweet and sour pork from your average Chinese place, but with a more natural maroon color instead of the neon glow it usually has. The pork had a kick to it, and the texture of the plain kimchi and classic pico de gallo matched the flavors wonderfully.
Without the hot chili sauce, the spicy grilled chicken is actually not hot at all, and is just pieces of marinated chicken in a simple Mexican treatment of roasted garlic, onions, and cilantro, augmented with a subtle touch of soy sauce and sesame oil for that Asian flavor. Served with pickled daikon and carrots with a Kimchi chipotle aioli on top, this was a tasty and hearty taco with a good balance of flavors.
My favorite may have been the grilled korean BBQ short rib taco, with chunks of tender meat hidden under a daunting pile of red cabbage and pear kimchi slaw. The marinated meat was amazing and soft to the touch, tearing apart effortlessly. The sweet and tangy slaw was a great match for it, and really was the best example of not just the fusion between Korea and Mexico, but also the American palette. This is a taco that will remind you of a family barbeque in the Summer and will leave you very satisfied.
The Krispy Fish taco was cool and refreshing, a fine choice for my last bite. I wish my fish was a bit warmer when I got it (not sure if it is purposely served room temperature or hot, but mine was just cold).
“Kimchi Taco” is a truck that I will be exploring more options at soon, especially since I still have two other tacos to try – their fried chicken taco and the tofu edamame falafel taco (talk about fusion!). Great for a quick snack or a well-rounded lunch, “Kimchi Taco” will wake your tastebuds up and, if you are not afraid of spice, will heat up your lunchtime.
The “Kimchi Taco” truck travels around Manhattan and Brooklyn, and also has a restaurant in Prospect Heights. Check out their website for more info on both.