A very odd lunch at Le Bon Cuisine

My friend Jon and I took our normal mid-week ride-and-lunch this week. We were both pressed for time, but Le Bon Cuisine truck was at Technology Federal Credit Union on First Street, and that made a nice, quick ride for us.Le Bon Cuisine Truck

I had looked up the menu online and noted that the choices seemed to amount to a chicken sandwich or a pork sandwich. Not sure whether there’d be anything I could eat, I was delighted to see the big banner on the side advertising “Savory Shrimp Garlic Noodles!” Saved!

So I stepped up to the window and said, “I’d like the shrimp garlic noodles”

“We don’t have shrimp today.”

“You know you have a big banner out here saying you have ‘Savory Shrimp Garlic Noodles,’ right?”

“Umm, uh, OK.”

“Well, can I have the garlic noodles with no meat?”

“Sure”

Le Bon Cuisine MenuShe took my money and Jon stepped up, having carefully examined the three (3) items (Chicken Sandwich, Pork Sandwich, Garlic Noodles) on the truck’s menu.

“I’d like the Number 2,” he said, confidently.

“Ummm… I don’t know… what’s #2?” the server asked

“Pork Sandwich”

“Oh! OK, yes, we can make that.”

With this auspicious beginning, I was openly fearful of what might happen next.

Our food came, we went over to a table that TechCU has next to the building (I’m sure it’s reserved for employees, but I have been a member of Tech for longer than most of the employees have been alive) and tore into our meals.

Le Bon Cuisine Garlic NoodlesThe garlic noodles, it must be said, were delicious. Redolent of garlic, salty, and perfect in texture, they were very good. I would have liked a little bigger portion, but I was happy with the noodles themselves.

The pork sandwich was an unqualified hit, however. I’m glad I got a picture of it before Jon bit into it; when he took the first bite, all conversation ceased. When I asked him how the sandwich was, he just replied “Mmmph… mmmm” with a look in his eye I have only seen once before, and then on a hungry rottweiler that had found a steak behind a butcher shop. I decided not to bother him too much.Le Bon Cuisine Pork Sandwich

When he finished, though, he said the pork was perfectly seasoned, with the cabbage slaw on the sandwich adding to and enhancing the flavor of the pork, and that their hot/barbeque sauce went perfectly with the ingredients. It was served with a little bit of cole slaw and some potato chips (invisible behind the sandwich wrapping). He really enjoyed it, and said it was well-worth the ride.

So, an “A” for the food, but low marks for the customer service at Le Bon Cuisine truck. I hope they’ll get their act together – that sandwich deserves a better introduction!

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Two quickie updates

My friend Jon and I have started taking mid-week bicycle rides at lunchtime. It serves three important functions for two guys who work at home: it gets us out of the house, it provides some exercise, and, of course, it gets us to food trucks.

Friend JohnJon, despite having a couple of years on me, is much more fit than I am and absolutely busts my butt on these rides. By the time I pull in to the truck, I’m sweaty and hungry and thirsty and wondering if I could fit my bike into a cab. He, of course, looks like he took a cab.

Last week we rode up to the Cisco campus to raid Tikka Bytes. Jon (note that he is not sweating) got the bowl with chicken and tikka massala, while I tried the “Chole Tostada.”

TIkka Bites Chicken BowlThe chicken bowl looked great, and Jon said it was delicious. It had nice, big chunks of chicken in their least spicy but incredibly aromatic sauce, with rice on the bottom of the bowl. He finished it off, and I thought I might have seen him turn his back for a moment to lick the bowl. Probably not, but it looked really clean.

TIkka Bites Cholle TostadaThe Cholle Tostada was served in the same bowl, and it was just a crispy corn tortilla with a thick layer of Cholle (garbanzo beans simmered in massala sauce) on top of it, garnished with some crispy bits, some red onion, and a couple of nice sauces on top. I like cholle any way it’s served, and I enjoyed this very much.

As always, Tikka Bytes came through for us!

The other day I had to drive up to Portola Valley and thought I’d check to see if anyone was on the path. Sam’s Chowder Mobile was, so I dropped in for lunch.

Sam's CalamariI decided to try the Calamari. For $8, I got a very generous portion of little, deep-fried squid bits, served with delicious tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. The squid was cooked perfectly – the outside was crispy, the squid itself moist and tender. I like squid, and I’m not sure I have ever had it cooked better. I drove away with the container in the passenger seat, reaching over for bits of perfect squid, dipping them at random, and popping them into my mouth. They lasted until I got to Palo Alto on I-280 – it was a good-size portion!

My only minor quibble is that it was pretty salty for my taste. It brought out the flavor of the squid nicely, but I would have liked a little more squid flavor and a little less salt.

But that’s a quibble – I’ll get it again!

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Word on the StreEatz, PHHS

The Lovely and Talented, her friend, and I went to the Word on the StreEatz food fest at Piedmont Hills High in East San Jose. There were about 15 trucks there, several of whom I had not seen before, along with music and a general party atmosphere. We had a blast.

We cruised the area, eyeing the trucks carefully. The first stop was EatOnMonday, a truck I had not previously seen. Here you can see the women taking a good look at the menu, having that discussion: “Squid tacos? REALLY?”

Well, the answer was, “YES!” Calamari tacos – one “plain,” one adorned with Sriracha sauce, and a Mushroom taco for “balance.”

The tacos were beautiful – the calamari tacos were served on red corn tortillas, while the mushroom taco was served on a blue corn tortilla. The squid was cooked perfectly – flash-fried in a light batter that turned crispy with almost no oiliness at all. With or without Sriracha sauce, they were full of flavor and texture, with hot calamari, cool greens, and delicious sauce with just a little bite.

The mushroom taco, however, was the real surprise. The taco contained a wonderful array of mushrooms sauteed in a delicious mix of spices, with some garlic and a little onion. I love mushrooms – I mean LOVE mushrooms – and this was literally ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I HAVE EATEN in a long time.

If you are near the EatOnMonday truck, run, don’t walk.

Our next stop was at one of my perennial favorites, MoBowl. They had two specials: a ginger shrimp bowl and a curry chicken bowl; we got one of each. Both were magnificent.

The shrimp bowl was just grilled shrimp on top of a bowl of their wonderful rice with some veggies. It wanted some sort of sauce with it, but the shrimp were out-of-this-world delicious. They were cooked perfectly, with a sweet-and-spicy glaze that was packed with flavor. The curry chicken bowl was spicy and saucy, what I think of as a “Japanese-style” curry. Everyone enjoyed both bowls.

Curry Up NowI was still a bit peckish, so I stopped off at Curry Up Now for a Paneer Kathi Roll. This was my first time at this fine truck, which has been around for a long time and is now starting a “bricks and mortar” restaurant.

The Kathi roll was exactly what I wanted – a delicious few bites. Tasty, firm paneer was sauteed in a nice curry sauce and wrapped up in a warm, chewy roti. It went fast, and it was a perfect end to a great night.

It should be noted that this night occurred primarily due to the efforts of one of the outstanding teachers at Piedmont Hills – Jason Dries. Mr. Dries – you da man!Jason

There were a lot of trucks there I have not yet tried and didn’t get to try that night – we didn’t even have room for ice cream! So Arabian Bites, Mayo and Mustard, Yumsilog, Scoops, Twisted Chill, and all the rest – we’ll be back!

 

 

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Iz It Good? Oh, yeah! (Forsooth!)

Many years back, my mother got me a card saying, “So I haven’t written lately…” and you open it up and it says, “Well, neither has Shakespeare!”

In that spirit of unapologetic lethargy, I belatedly bring you a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

A couple of weekends back, Mvbl Feast set up at the corner of Saratoga and Stevens Creek at lunchtime on a Saturday, along with an antiques fair. The Lovely and Talented had been eyeing a few pieces and thought it was a nice opportunity for synchronicity – “Antiques and Food Trucks together, what could be better?”

Iz It TruckSo we found ourselves in line for Iz-It, carefully considering our choices. I got a Tofu Taco, while the L & T got the shrimp scampi.

The “scampi” was really a nice garlic-fried shrimp, served with some steamed rice. She complained a bit about how “greasy” it was while wolfing it down hungrily – methinks the lady doth protest too much. It was a bit oily, but I expect that of anything labelled “scampi.” I expect scampi to be more of a butter-boiled shrimp with lots of garlic; this had the garlic fried and then the shrimp added – the shrimp was cooked perfectly and the garlic had that sweet, fried flavor that’s sooooo good. It was a treat.

Now, these guys are really messing with my well-know bias against tofu. The Tofu Taco was actually delicious, with marinated tofu breaded in panko and deep-fried. The result was a piece of tofu that was like a nice piece of fried fish  – crispy on the outside, but soft, tasty, and almost creamy on the inside. Served with a couple of small tortillas, lettuce, some veggies,and a delicious pico de gallo, I could easily have had a couple of them, if I were not trying to achieve a lean and hungry look.Iz It Tofu Taco

So a successful adventure was pursued: food was eaten, antiques purchased. Tonight we’ll go to the new Word on the StreEats event at Piedmont Hills High School and partake of what can be found there. If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the wicked!

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Alan Harding – Food Truck Hero

I was catching up on some TV this week, when I happened across the Food Network’s popular “Chopped” series – this time, the “Chopped Champions” tournament.

For those who are not fans, Chopped is a contest in which four chefs come to a kitchen and prepare three courses from a basket of “mystery ingredients.” After each course, one of the chefs is removed (“Chopped”) and the remaining chefs continue; after dessert, of course, there is only one chef left, who wins $10,000.

In one memorable episode, Alan Harding, the Brooklyn restauranteur and food-truck chef, won his episode with some truly amazing dishes made from some of the most unlikely ingredients I can imagine.

“Chopped Champions” carries this a bit further, by inviting back chefs who have won a previous Chopped episode to compete for $50,000.

Chef Harding was one on the episode I saw this week, making delicious and beautiful dishes out of ingredients I found, frankly, disgusting (if you don’t know what “lamb fries” are, well, you should really look it up…). He won, albeit not easily, and is going to the finals to compete for $50,000.

I have never met chef Harding and never eaten his food, but he’s a hero to me. He has showed a national audience that a food-truck chef is not only a real chef, but capable of putting out better food than chefs who work in restaurants. I think he’s really instrumental in helping “legitimize” gourmet food trucks and educating people that amazing food comes from them.

I’m looking forward to the final round… unfortunately, I can’t find any mention of it on the Food Network website, so I’ll take a look on Tuesday night and hope it’s there.

P.S. I don’t have to mention The Great Food Truck Race, right? If you’re reading this, I assume you’re watching that. Sunday…

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Another Byte of Tikka Bytes

Another Friday, another food truck. Last Friday the ever-patient and indulgent Trisha and I had our weekly meeting at Tikka Bytes, parked in the Bank of America parking lot on north 1st Street in San Jose. This was an easy choice because, (1) I was in the mood for good Indian food, and (2) I needed to go to the bank anyway.

Tikka Bytes Rice BowlAs it is our general rule to not have the same thing twice, this time I ordered the Samosa Cholle ($5) and Trisha ordered the Tofu Rice Bowl with Shahi Korma sauce ($6). The rice bowl, shown at left, is a generous portion of rice with veggies and tofu, topped with any of their three delicious sauces (choose how piquant you want it). It was topped with a swirl of raitha – unfortunately, the raitha had run a bit by the time we got a picture of it, but it was delicious. The veggies, tofu, and sauce made a wonderful mixture, and the portion was big enough that Trisha couldn’t finish it.

The Samosa Cholle came in a slightly smaller bowl, and it made just about a perfect meal for me. It consisted of a samosa (a pastry filled with potato curry) smothered in cholle (chickpea curry), and topped with cilantro and some diced red sweet onions. I must confess I wolfed this down and looked around to see if I could get away with licking out the bottom of the bowl (I couldn’t, alas).

The Bank of America parking lot (at the corner of North First and Trimble) is actually a remarkably pleasant location for lunch. Surrounded by mature trees, it is a cool, shady oasis on a warm day. Our only misgiving is that the throng of people running in to do their banking at noontime create a bit of a hazard, as they seem to drive a bit less cautiously than a crowded parking lot would warrant.

But it is a great pleasure to sit out on a summer afternoon and eat some really good Indian food with a friend, and I can’t recommend it enough.

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… and Mo’ MoBowl…

I was tired and hungry. Looking at the tweet list here on svfoodtrucks,com, I saw that MoBowl was at Lockheed in north San Jose, and the decision was made.MoBowl Truck

The last couple of times I have been up there, I have really grown to like the Lockheed location. There seems to be a convivial throng of food-truck acolytes, and the location is actually really pleasant. The courtyard has some little tables with umbrellas, and there is a good parking lot with trees so I can park my “twuck” (yes, there’s a story why it’s a “twuck”) in the shade. The guardshack and the guard are gone, so you don’t have to dig your ID out of your pocket when you drive in. All this makes it about my favorite place to find a food truck these days.

I realized that I had never had the infamous MoBowl Cheesecake Egg Rolls. As I was left a bit hungry last time I had a MoBowl, I decided this was the day to try them, so I got an order (for $2) along with the “Umami Tofu” bowl ($7).

Umami Tofu and Cheesecake EggrollsAs always, the MoBowl guys put out a really nice product really quickly. I had almost forgotten how delicious the Umami Tofu bowl is – good umami flavor from Shiitake mushrooms balanced with sweet and acid tones in the sauce. The tofu is flavorful and the accompanying veggies are delicious. The bit of salad sets the meal off perfectly.

I was feeling very satisfied when I finally dug into the Cheescake Egg Rolls. There were two small egg rolls with a small container of (on this day) strawberry/black pepper “coullee.” The egg rolls themselves were nicely cooked with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on the outeside, and there was just enough cream cheese inside them to give a little “cheesecake” flavor. Sauceless, they would have been a bit dry and bland.  The “coullee” was not really a coulis; it was a thin but flavorful mixture of mashed strawberries and ground black pepper. It was a small portion, but very tasty and really perked up the egg rolls – together they felt like a real dessert. I would have liked a bit more sauce, but I always like a bit more sauce. 🙂

My final assessment is that I can take or leave the Cheesecake Egg Rolls, but I’ll be back for another Umami Tofu bowl soon.

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Babalooooooo!!!

LUUUCYYYYY!

OK, maybe I’m giving my age away here a little bit. Yeah, I’m old.

Babaloo TruckBut I don’t feel old today. I’m young, invigorated, ready to cha-cha. All this after a visit to the Babaloo Truck.

My poor, long-suffering friend Trisha agreed to come along on yet another food truck adventure. We last visited Lockheed in north San Jose some time ago when we sampled MoBowl. Since then the entrance to the facility has been reconfigured without a guard shack, so you no longer have to show ID to get in! This was a huge relief to me, as I am frequently unsure about who I am.

So we got to Lockheed, found a spot to park in the shade, and found the truck sitting in front of the buildings, ready to go. I ordered the eponymous “Babaloo” sandwich, while Trisha had the “Lucy, Lucy.” We both had the “Mojito” to go with our lunches, assured they did not have any alcohol in them.

Babaloo sandwichThey describe the Babaloo sandwich as having “black bean hummus” – that seemed pretty weird to me. I do eat fish, and I had intended to get a Fred and Ethel (fish sliders), but I was intrigued, so I got the Babaloo. Boy, was I glad I did.

As you can see to the right, the Babaloo comes with a generous helping of magnificently seasoned mashed black beans, mixed in with equally deliciously seasoned grilled vegetables, all served on a light, Cubano-style bread. It was spicy, with good flavors of garlic and chile. It did taste a bit like hummus, so the name did not seem inappropriate. The vegetables were grilled in a mix of spices and were delectable.

Lucy Lucy sandwichThe Lucy Lucy sandwich was just as good, according to Trisha, with nice pieces of chicken grilled with the same delicious spice mix.

Each sandwich also included a small container of a red hot sauce, which we found added both heat and flavor to the sandwich. It was so good we could have had more.

Sitting on a warm and sunny day outside the Lockheed building, we washed down our sandwiches with the Babaloo “Mojito” drink. We sat for a while and considered the drink carefully, but we couldn’t quite figure out what all is in it. It is light, not very sweet, quite acidic, and very refreshing. Raspberry and mint are involved, but there are some other flavors, as well.

We both agreed we had a magnificent meal on a beautiful day, and that we were sad to be getting back to work. We’ll be back to Babaloo.

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…and mo’ MoGo

Last week, my long-suffering friend Trisha agreed to come along for an “adventure.” She was soon glad she did, however, as I took her to MoGo BBQ, parked in the TechCU lot just north of the airport in San Jose.

I have had the Kim Chee quesadilla so many times now… I have even gotten some MSG-free kim chee and made my own weak version of it at home a few times. But I would have had to make my own this day, because… they were out of kim chee!

Wait – let that sink in – a Korean BBQ truck out of kim chee. Upon hearing the news, I expected to see pigs flapping across the sky, the devil skiing, and Kieth Olbermann and Rush Limbaugh engaged in heavy petting in a nearby hybrid Camaro.

MoGo SlidersBut life went on… I got a Tofu burrito and Trish got the Short Rib Sliders.

The sliders, shown on the left here, were almost invisible under lettuce, cabbage, cheese, and sauce. It actually took poor Trish a minute to get the first sandwich out of the tray, but she got very quiet after the first bite – always a good sign.

They were a terrific mess, but we were sitting out on the tailgate of the old pickup truck, so it worked out pretty well. She said they were extremely tasty, with perfect, soft bread and delicious firm rib meat inside.

MoGo Tofu BurritoI got a Tofu Burrito, which was not altogether different from the sliders. As you can see on the right, it has nice chunks of well-seasoned tofu mixed with lettuce and cabbage, cheese, and sauce. There is also some nicely seasoned rice inside the toasty, tasty tortilla. A squirt of Sriracha sauce made it even better, although I enjoyed most of the burrito just as it was.

The burrito made a nice meal for me, and Trisha was quite satisfied with the sliders – MoGo comes through again!

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More Omininjas…

I have been on business travel and just plain busy for the last few weeks, so I haven’t had nearly enough time to go to food trucks or write about them

However, between trips and other distractions (yes, besides being a storied and renowned food truck blogger, I have a side-hobby of running a small technology company), I have managed to get in a few quick trips to local food trucks.

Happy folks at OmininjasOne evening we had a friend over and Omininjas parked almost right around the corner from us as SJMADE – of course, we had to go down and see them. There was a nice, happy crowd there, which was great to see. I was very disappointed that they were out of tofu by the time we got there, but Nancy agreed to just give me bún with just vegetables. I have to admit, it was actually pretty good, but it was a bit too small to be a meal. My lovely wife got banh mi with a fried egg on it, and our guest got a pork banh mi. They both found them delicious, but both of them wanted some more of the delicious veggies on their sandwiches. When I tried their banh me, I found the balance of tofu to veggies to be just about right, but theirs did seem a bit light that night.Pork banh mi

Overall, not Omininja’s best night, although we did get fed and what we got was pretty tasty.

But I never got the tofu bún I had walked over to get. A couple of weeks later I finally had time for lunch, so I tracked down the Omis in Milpitas.

Y’know, the bún with just veggies was pretty good, but I had forgotten how good the tofu is. Redolent with mushrooms, it comes out warm with a very nice texture. Mixed with the vermicelli and veggies, it is absolutely delicious. However, what puts it over the top is the nước chấm (sauce – warning: contains fish sauce), which is extraordinary – more acidic and less watered-down than what I am accustomed to, making it much tastier. The combination of flavors is amazing – this is the best veggie bún I have ever had. Indeed, since I have never had other than veggie bún, I would have to say it is the best I have had, period.Omininjas tofu bun

However, as you can see in the picture to the left, I also put some of the Omi’s special “Ninja” sauce in the lower left corner for dipping. It was really good on the banh mi, and I asked Nancy if it was recommended for the bún. She responded, “Ninja sauce is good with everything,” and wow, was she right.

On a warm summer day, sitting on the grass outside in front of a nondescript office building, I can’t imagine a place I would have rather been.

 

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