Pop-up restaurants are becoming quite popular. I am not sure of the origin but I hear about them more and more. When I heard that Hop Phan, owner of Dos Chinos, an Orange County gourmet food truck, and Jason Quinn best known as the chef from the Lime Truck, and soon-to-be-opened the PlayGround in Downtown Santa Ana, were teaming up for a pop-up, we knew we had to go.
Kim and I really like the food from both of these gourmet food trucks. The event was a lot of fun. They had two seatings at 6 p.m. and then 9 p.m., for this one night only event. Jason and Hop put together a six course, family style, tasting menu along with an optional drink pairing by mixologist Gabrielle Mosa Dion of the Charlie Palmer Restaurant.
Hop kicked things off with his version of a Vietnamese Shrimp Ceviche with Meyer lemon, nuoc man (fish sauce), sweet pepper medley, pineapple and a Vietnamese tostada. The ceviche was light and fresh, not too citrusy and had good-sized pieces of shrimp.
The second course was Jason’s “Bahn Mi” Salad. It was a deconstructed Bahi Mi sandwich which highlighted the freshness of the vegetables and the bold flavors of the cured five-spice pork belly served with fresh made croutons. I liked the playfulness of this dish and the flavors were sweet, spicy, savory and sour with each bite.
One of my favorite dishes of the night was the Oxtail Soup by Hop. This was made with roasted root vegetables, cilantro, and Pho broth and was served with a French baguette and roasted bone marrow butter. The pho broth was delicious and the meat from the oxtail was tender.
Now onto the Chicken Tikka Masala, with roasted wings, tandoori spices, peas, baby fingerling potatoes, and cotija cheese. The wings were roasted with a slight char, which added texture, even though the meat fell of the bones. The tikka masala sauce was very good. The potatoes were a different twist. Kim wanted some rice or naan to sop up the extra sauce. This was not traditional but the flavors really worked. The drink paired with this dish was called “I Gotcha Back”, 10 cane rum, ginger, lemongrass syrup, lime and yogurt. It was very refreshing and complex.
The fifth course was Crispy Skin-Charred Lemongrass Salmon, with mangos, watermelon, tomatillo sauce and orange scented cous cous. The cous cous was served chilled. The skin was very crispy which surprised me because it didn’t look like it would be. I felt this dish was missing something, maybe a little heat (spice).
If all of that wasn’t enough, it was time for a collaborative dessert of green goose pluot cobbler topped with vanilla bean passion fruit yogurt. The cobbler was amazing, and I really liked the yogurt, however I did not like them together. Everyone else at the table disagreed with me on that. The pluots were tender and not too sweet. It was really an amazing dessert. This was paired with my favorite drink of the night, a Cold World Float made of root, Becherovka (herbal bitters), vanilla ice cream, and housemade espresso soda. When I took a sip of this one it really smacked me in the face. Once the ice cream melted and I stirred the flavors together, it was incredible. It was a very fun twist on a root beer float.
The food was right on, as we expected. Jason and Hop did not disappoint. The drinks were good, but they did not seem like they were really paired with the dishes but more like six very good drinks. I expected them to complement the dishes more. The service had a few hiccups but what can you expect from a one-night-only event. It was great to see what they could pull together outside the truck and look forward to trying their future endeavors.