When I first heard about the official launch of Off the Grid at Fort Mason, I was so excited to check it out. Every Friday starting in June (and supposedly going through December), this event brings together a multitude of mobile food vendors (aka food trucks) resulting in a food festival of sorts. I finally got a chance to head over one Friday, so when we got there, we were greeted with cold gloom and wind, but there were already a fair number of people lining up for food and enjoying a variety of different treats.
Nevertheless, the first stop when I got there was at the Onigilly stand. The have a small menu consisting of seasoned rice balls served with seaweed and topped a three different things, tuna salad, eggplant and hijiki (which is some kind of Japanese seaweed.) It was 2 for $5, so I went with the two most filling-looking, eggplant and tuna salad. There are a variety of different sauces that you could put on the onigiri including wasabi, curry, spicy, and miso flavored aiolis. I think I ended up trying the curry, spicy and miso ones. I don’t think I could pick a favorite, because they were all pretty good. The onigiri itself were both good. Both the tuna salad and eggplant really hit the spot, but I would have to say the eggplant was pretty special and probably the most memorable. It was well-prepared and saucy enough that it really went well with the rice ball. Yummy!
The Kung Fu Tacos truck supposedly serves the Chinese version of the infamous Korean tacos. So instead of Korean BBQ meat, the protein revolves around Chinese-flavored meats like char-siu pork and roasted Peking-like duck. Considering how small these suckers are, I went ahead and tried both. At $3 per taco, they are slightly pricier than their Korean relatives, but I guess you get to charge a premium when you’re the only kid on the block. The char-siu pork is glazed and topped with hoisin sauce, mango salsa and papaya. The roasted duck taco comes with the same toppings but instead of papaya, there is green onions. The flavors of this taco is supposed to be reminiscent of the flavors you get when you eat Peking duck with the steamed buns. Both tacos were pretty good. I like the combination of flavors, and considering that Korean tacos are all the rage lately, it’s kind of nice to try something different. It’s a close call, but I think I might prefer these tacos over the the Korean ones.
The Hapa SF truck was familiar, because I’ve seen it parked over in the Walmart.com parking lot in Brisbane. I’ve never tried it, because admittedly, I thought their prices were kind of high for Filipino food. However, when you look at their menu you can tell there is a strong emphasis on using high quality ingredients. For example, the Shanghai Lumpia was made from Long and Bailey pork (which means very little to me but I found it is some organic farm where they get their pork), water chestnuts, carrots and pineapples. I think it was 5-6 lumpia for $5 which isn’t bad. These little egg rolls were yummy!! They were piping hot and crispy so it obviously had just come out of the fryer, but they tasted especially delicious with the sweet and sour sauce.
I also got 2 orders of the sisig tacos. I figured if I tried the Korean and Chinese versions, I had to give a fair shake to the Filipino effort. Sisig is lime and soy marinated, fried pork cheek and shoulder meat. The tacos come with shredded lettuce, finely sliced radish, and salsa verde. Mercury Lounge introduced me to sisig tacos for the first time at a Filipino cultural festival last year, and I was in love at first bite. The meat was so flavorful and juicy. Hapa SF tacos are very good. The pork is not shredded as much which I think ends up enhancing the higher quality of the pork they are using.
Another frequent resident of the lunchtime Brisbane scene is the Chairman Bao truck. I’ve already tasted a few of their steamed buns before, but I wanted to try a few other buns on the menu and particularly wanted to introduce them to Pdho. I ordered the Chinese-spiced Duck Confit in a steamed bun which came topped with a mango salsa. This tasted particularly good. The duck meat was very well seasoned and went surprisingly well with the mango salsa. The big difference I found this time was the steamed buns were actually soft and warm so it made the overall taste of the bun better. The first time I had it, the buns were slightly cold.
Everyone seems to compare any version of the pork belly bun to David Chang’s version that he serves at his Momofuko empire, and although I don’t disagree that his buns are DELICIOUS with a capital D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S, I can’t believe that he was really the first one to come up with it. Nevertheless, these buns are a little different, because they are served with pickled daikon which add a nice contrast to the fattiness and richness of the pork belly. Admittedly, the pork is probably not as “melt in your mouth” delicious as David Chang’s, but it’s still pretty darn good! I really liked it. At $2.95 for a steamed bun, these are reasonably priced, but I think it’s the right protein to vegetable to bun ratio that really makes it a good deal.
The meal could not be complete without some dessert I guess… I was really pretty full by this point, but Pdho insisted on trying the Chai Banana Fritters from the Singaporean/Malaysian stand. I can’t recall the name unfortunately. Theywere deep-fried on the spot and came sprinkled with a healthy amount of powdered sugar. I don’t know what it is, but Pdho just loves anything that is deep-fried, and I think he particularly likes dough that is deep-fried. I have to admit that these little fritters weren’t bad. The chai banana taste was pretty subtle, but I really couldn’t have more than a couple of bites. The oil started to get to me especially because I was so full.
All in all, it was an awesome outing. I love these food festival-type events, because it allows you to sample a variety of different things. There were a good collection of vendors serving a variety of Asian and Latin themed goodies, and they even provide some musical entertainment for ambiance while you eat. My biggest complaint though was the fact that since it’s located at Fort Mason in the Marina, the weather frickin’ SUCKS! It’s cold, windy and grey (at least in July), so although the food was delicious it was hard to thoroughly enjoy ourselves because we were freezing! =( Nevertheless, it’s still worth the experience to go check it out, so I just recommend everyone come bundled up and all will be well.