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1 Catt. 4: In re TaKorean

2011 September 30
by JEREMY, C.J.

JEREMY, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Cart. CATTLEYA, J., delivered a separate concurrence.

We granted cartiorari in this case to review TaKorean, a “mobile gastronomic enterprise” purveying “Korean BBQ Tacos.” TaKorean’s menu is mercifully brief, including only three items (with minor variations thereon). In this arena, brevity is a plus; better to make a few very good dishes rather than lots of mediocre ones. I applaud TaKorean for that, but in the end we still got mediocre.

TaKorean

Ordering at TaKorean is a three-step process:

  1. Choose preparation: taco (one for $3.50, or three for $9.00) or bowl ($9.00).
  2. Choose meat: bulgogi steak, tangy chicken, or caramelized tofu.
  3. Choose slaw: “spicy kimchi style slaw” or “napa-romaine slaw.” (By default, both tacos and bowls come with Sriracha, lime crema, fresh cilantro, and sesame seeds, any or all of which can be excluded.)

Simple enough.

We ordered three tacos, with all the default toppings: (1) bulgogi steak with spicy kimchi style slaw, (2) tangy chicken with napa-romaine slaw, and (3) caramelized tofu with spicy kimchi style slaw. We were informed that these are the recommended pairings. Let’s dissect the tacos element-by-element.

Bulgogi Steak, Tangy Chicken, and Caramelized Tofu Tacos

Bulgogi Steak. Bland. Described as “thin sliced fresh ribeye steak marinated in a sweet and spicy soy-based sauce,” the steak gave off little sense of sweet, spice, or fermentation. At the very least, it required a bit of salt and pepper. It had none of the subtle balance of true bulgogi, and, more importantly, none of the caramelized crispy pieces that lingered too long on the cooking surface. The steak had no hope against the combined force of the slaw, the default toppings, and two corn tortillas. The completed taco tasted of corn tortilla, Sriracha, and cilantro. While fresh testing, the proportions of the ingredients were off. For $3 a taco, I expect more than Sriracha and cilantro.

Tangy Chicken. Also bland. Described as “chicken marinated in sweet chili sauce, ginger, and soy,” but, like the steak, none of the items listed on the menu seem to have actually made it into the finished product. The completed taco tasted exactly like the bulgogi taco above: Sriracha and cilantro wrapped in two corn tortillas.

Caramelized Tofu. Surprisingly good. Despite its not deriving from the carcass of some creature, the tofu was by far the best of the three “meats.” The tofu was firm, as promised, marinated with hoisin, and pan-seared. The resulting product was flavorful and balanced. The tofu even held its own against the Sriracha and cilantro. The taco included a proper amount of tofu, which never got lost.

Spicy Kimchi Style Slaw. Misleading. There are many varieties of kimchi. 187, by one count. But, as far as I know, all of them share one key component: fermentation. TaKorean’s “spicy kimchi style slaw” is not fermented, but rather “fresh cabbage dressed with a kimchi style sauce.” What seems to have gone overlooked is that what makes a sauce distinctively kimchiesque is the fermentation. The slaw is better described as shredded cabbage with the tiniest bit of vinegar.

Napa-Romaine Slaw. Forgettable. Described as “shredded lettuce and cabbage dressed with a rice vinegar, lime, and sesame oil vinaigrette,” once again we are treated to shredded cabbage with the tiniest bit of vinegar.

The verdict: Mostly bland, with a surprisingly decent tofu taco. The ingredients tasted fresh, but that’s about all one tastes. At $3.50 per taco, or $9 for three, TaKorean is priced identically to other food trucks. See In re DC Empanadas, 1 Catt. 3 (2011). But it hurts to pay that for a Sriracha-and-cilantro taco, much as I love both ingredients. TaKorean’s flavors go the way of most fusion: confusion.

REMANDED to TaKorean for revision.

CATTLEYA, J., concurring in the result and the opinion, except for the way that it is written.

The Chief Justice admires how TaKorean’s menu is “brief” and (correctly) recognizes that “brevity is a plus.” Yet, he can’t manage to be brief with his own opinion. Surely, the members of this Supreme Cart can do better.

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