Lana Hughes and JP Pritchard

Fresh Flavors of Korea and Mexico Unite at Chi’Lantro [PHOTOS]

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(Credit: Sabrina Fleary)

(Credit: Sabrina Fleary)

Initially when I heard the concept of a Korean and Mexican food truck fusion, I was very confused as to how these seemingly foreign flavors would mix. However, Chi’lantro, a Korean BBQ Taco food truck, left me unexpectedly satisfied.

The food truck is located at the corner of Richmond Avenue and Timmons Lane. Although the truck’s bright orange paint makes it easily noticeable from the street, the crowd of people waiting for Korean tacos makes it virtually impossible to miss.

As I walked up, I could smell fresh grilled chicken and beef. As an aspiring vegetarian, I was disappointed I would have to break my meat fast. However, to my delight, tofu is listed as an option for any meat dish.

The menu was the perfect size with only seven items to choose from. There were also food accolades such as “Food Network Choice” and “New York Times Pick” under the most popular dishes. I opted for the Kimchi Fries with tofu ($6) and Chicken Quesadillas ($7). The delicious smell played a huge role in my failure to resists the temptation of eating meat. Both items could also be ordered with pork or beef instead. Although there weren’t many food items, the option for variety and personalization with meat, or no meat, was refreshing. For my drink, I ordered the original “Dragon Juice” ($3), a blend of mango and orange juice.

I placed my order with a very friendly employee and waited… and waited…and waited. This is a popular lunch spot. I was the sixth person in line with more filing behind me. At about 9o degrees, the 15 minute wait left me with a few damp spots under my shirt and a pallet of sweat beads above my brows. At the point where I was sure I might faint of heat exhaustion, my order was ready.

The dragon fruit punch was lacking “punch.” It tasted very bland and wasn’t sweet enough for my taste. However, I could taste the mango and it seemed like fresh squeezed juice, not from concentrate.

I already had a slightly negative outlook because of my longer than expected wait, but that was quickly dispelled as soon as I took my first bite of quesadillas. I was more anxious to see how these quesadillas would differ from any other Tex-Mex quesadillas being that they were “Korean.”

Everything about traditional quesadillas was used: cheese, flour tortilla, onions, and grilled chicken. A honeyed sauce that I could compare to sweet and sour sauce gave it that Korean kick, but I was expecting more untraditional ingredients. The caramelized kimchi was a little bitter for my taste buds and I removed it from the quesadilla. Taste wise, the quesadilla was amazing, hot fresh and full of flavor, but it didn’t differ from any other traditional Tex-Mex quesadillas which was disappointing. Two side sauces were served for dipping including a creamy, shrimp-flavored red sauce and a liquid-like barbeque sauce with a soy sauce tang.

I was pleased with the Kimchi fries because they gave me the new taste I was looking for. Smothered in chopped grilled onions, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, “magic sauce”, and sriracha (Thai hot sauce), the combination of foreign and familiar flavors was delightful to say the least. A light topping of sesame seed didn’t really enhance flavor, but it was pleasing to the eye and added a nice crunch. I’m not a tofu fanatic, but I was questioning if I was actually eating meat! It had an amazing beef flavor that made me forget I was eating tofu entirely.

Overall, I was pleased with this food truck. The food was fresh, moderately priced, and didn’t stray too far away from flavors I’m accustomed to eating.  I wish Chi’Lantro didn’t play it so safe with their Korean ingredients, but it is definitely worth a trip back.

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