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TRADITION vs. FUSION: Another Filipino Gourmet Food Truck Debuts
I thought I was seeing things a couple of weeks ago. I was on my way home after having dinner with a friend at a restaurant in Studio City when I passed what I thought was a food truck near Guitar Center in Sherman Oaks. In a split second, all I saw was was the word Filipino; I didn’t register anything else. I slowed down and checked back in my rear view mirror and all I saw was a white truck. I couldn’t make out anything else as I headed westbound on Ventura Boulevard. I then began to question whether or not I actually saw the word Filipino. I shrugged it off and promptly forgot about it.
Fast forward to tonight. I was checking my Twitter account and a specific tweet caught my eye, “FoodTruckLA RT @whiterabbitruk: En route to Menchies Granada Hills. Serving till 9. Orders will stop by 9, so get there early.” This was a retweet by FoodTruckLA on Twitter and was curious what White Rabbit was all about. I clicked on the Twitter name and lo and behold! It was another gourmet food truck…a FILIPINO-FUSION gourmet food truck, and unlike Manila Machine whose focus is more on the traditional Filipino fare, White Rabbit takes popular Filipino dishes and fuses it with an American and Mexican Twist. Then it hit me–this was the truck I saw two weeks ago!
It was already 6:45 p.m. and I was still at work. I quickly called a couple of friends to see if I could at least get one of them to go with me. Both didn’t answer their phones. So I called my husband (he had to work late) and my youngest son (he had plans to go out with friends) and my older son (he wanted to be home and talk to his girlfriend on Skype)–I couldn’t find one person who could go with me! I decided then and there that I would make the trip by myself and brave what I thought would be a very long line on my own.
I found Menchies (a frozen yogurt shop) and White Rabbit was parked in front of it not far from the corner of Chatsworth and Zelzah in Granada Hills. The line unfortunately was not long, only 6 people in line in front of me (however, about the time I left which was 45 minutes later, there were already 25-30 people in line).
White Rabbit is yet another player in the gourmet food truck game. Manila Machine, which debuted in early June was enjoying a huge following, and until recently, was the only Filipino game in town. In fact, earlier today, Manila Machine was on Fox’s Good Day L.A., one of four trucks featured that will be participating in this year’s LA Street Fair at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena next Saturday, July 24.
What sets White Rabbit apart from Manila Machine is their menu. Oh sure, their food offerings are the same–both include Chicken Adobo, Beefsteak, Sisig but that’s where the similarities ends. Manila Machine sticks to tradition while White Rabbit steps outside of its hole and has create an interesting and eclectic mix of savory dishes utilizing traditional, yet popular meats familiar to Filipino cuisine: Beefsteak, Pork Sisig, Chicken Adobo and Pork Tocino.
The Beefsteak is citrus marinated and slow cooked (I’m guessing they use either calmansi, a Filipino lime or a regular lemon as a base for their marinade). I liked how the citrus marinade brightened up the flavor of the beef. The Chicken Adobo is specially season and slowly braised in soy sauce and vinegar; the result is a very tender, very flavorful and savory chicken. The Pork Tocino is sweetened cured pork both braised and grilled. It was prepared differently from how my mother prepares Tocino. It was a bit on the spicy side but it was okay; I wasn’t completely wowed by it. The Pork Sisig, White Rabbit’s signature dish, is slightly sauteed and grilled pork, tossed in a medley of garlic, onions and jalapenos. Doesn’t that sound good? We ordered at least one item of the four meats offered with the exception of the Pork Sisig. They sold out which was disappointing but gives me an excuse to come back and try it and other dishes on their menu.
The way it works is that you pick a meat and decide how you want it prepared: Tacos–you get three small soft corn tortilla tacos, the tortillas were about the size of a music CD; Burrito, a generously stuffed burrito about 4-5 inches in length; in a Rice Bowl which literally means you get your choice of meat and two rounded scoops of rice; lettuce wrapped–you get three and the “Fili”Cheesecake, two slider style sandwich made with pan de sal rolls. I ordered the Chicken Adobo Burrito, chicken adobo wrapped in a flour tortilla with soft white rice, a fried egg and swiss cheese; The Pork Tocino Bowl; Beefsteak Tacos and Pork Tocino Tacos, both topped with a slightly spicy slaw; and the Fili-cheesesteak sliders, one with the Beefsteak and the other with the Pork Tocino.
Chicken Adobo Burrito
Left: Pork Tocino Fili-Cheesesteak and Right: Beefsteak Fili-cheesesteak
Pork Tocino Rice Bowl
Pork Tocino and Beefsteak Tacos
They also offer sides and other extras: Fried Eggs, Lumpia, or Fries (Regular, Sweet or Ube–a purple yam); Mac ‘n Cheese and Spaghetti, and a dessert menu which includes the White Chocolate Champorado, a sweet porridge-like dessert (they sold out of this too) and Banana Cream Cheese Lumpia (not available tonight). The only dessert they did have available is the Creme Brulee Toast and I’m still trying to figure out what is “Filipino” about that dish (I’m guessing it’s french toast style toast made with the pan de sal roll and dipped in an egg-brulee type mix and then grilled, and served with some type of dipping syrup.) I’ll be sure to ask and order it next time around.
Overall, it was a good food experience. Comparing it to Manila Machine in some respects is like comparing apples and oranges. Both are unique in its style, flavor and concept and it wouldn’t be fair to judge them as equals. I do have favorites from each menu though and I hope that both White Rabbit and Manila Machine bring in a whole new legion of fans that will help bring Filipino food into the mainstream.
Website for menu, truck locations and serving hours: http://www.whiterabbittruck.com
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