Marination is a taco truck with a twist: when I heard that Marination sold “Korean tacos” I became enraged. That’s because I hate fusion. If you like Mexican pizza, or Thai pizza, or pizza with corn on it, or pizza with broccoli on it, or Southwestern egg rolls, or Japanese French food, or French Japanese food, or anything that Wolfgang Puck cooks, you’ll LOVE Korean tacos! That’s what I thought, anyway, because I’m a total dick and I hate anything new. It’s totally true. I love Saint Chapelle because it’s old; I hate the Weezer Snuggie because it’s new. I love the ancient Norse gods because they’re old; I hate Scientology because it’s new (and because who do you think would win in an arm wrestling match: Thor or Tom Cruise?). Yet in the true scientific spirit I vowed to empirically test Marination’s wares. So one Saturday, when I knew that they’d be slumming along 35th Ave SW, I decided to check these motherfuckers out for myself.
The Kalua Kimchee Quesedilla ($5) had pulled roasted pork shoulder and kim chee, glued together with cheese on a grilled flour tortilla. The pork was finely shredded and the kim chee, despite the fact that I generally despise its spicy farty smell, did a good job of countering the quesedilla’s cheesy dripiness with its tangy crunch. The tortilla was pleasantly charred and crunchy and was topped with those drab army- green pickled jalapeno slices and a pink spicy sauce which I’m guessing was a mixture of Sriracha and sour cream. The “Kalua” in the name refers to the pork and not the coffee liqeur favored by sorority girls from 20 years ago and protagonists of The Big Lebowski.
At $6.50, the Ala Moana Melt was the single most expensive menu item. It’s a perfectly serviceable grilled cheese sandwich with the same pulled pork used in the quesadilla,plus melted gouda cheese and more of the spicy pink sauce, sandwiched between thick slices of coarse chewy bread. It’s basically the same as the quesadilla except with different cheese, no kim chee, and bread instead of the tortilla, so if you want for whatever reason to save $1.50 go for the quesadilla instead. After all, that extra $1.50 you saved can go a long way with your mom.
Kimchee fried rice ($5) came in one of those iconic red and white paper Chinese food containers that no Chinese restaurants actually use anymore. When you first open the box a fried egg stares up at you from atop a big pile of rice, garnished with scallion curlicues. The rice was rather bland, although it was stained a fiery reddish- orange and it LOOKED like it would be really spicy. There was lots of kim chee, which gave a crunchy texture contrast. The egg yolk was still soft so it ran down into the rice and you could mix it in and that was pretty nice, but it wasn’t nice enough to save this dish from being my least favorite thing on Marination’s menu.
But what about Marination’s vaunted Korean tacos? My verdict: mixed results at best. Each taco was $2, and you can choose between four different kinds: kalbi beef, spicy pork, ginger miso chicken, and tofu. The tofu taco doesn’t get any flavorful adjectives, probably because it’s so difficult to attach any flavor to tofu that flavorful WORDS won’t even stick to it.
For how high motherfucking falautin’ these tacos were supposed to be, I would call $2 a reasonable taco truck price. Kalbi beef was clearly the best : sweet and spicy and garlicky chunks of tender beef were topped with a tiny bale of crisp, tangy, sweet slaw of shredded cabbage and carrots with cilantro and wrapped in two (sometimes three) corn tortillas.
The so- called “spicy” pork was no spicier than the kalbi beef despite the fact that they actually took the time to describe the pork as being spicy. Like the kim chee fried rice, just because the ground pork in this taco was dyed orangey- red doesn’t make it spicy. Sure, it was spicier than a glass of water, but it definitely wasn’t as spicy as your mom’s love life.
The ginger miso chicken was what I would call a misfire: I guess they didn’t put enough ginger in it. I kept expecting to feel that rumbling, slow, sweet burn that only LOTS of ginger brings to a dish, but it never materialized. And the miso was too cloying and chalky.
As for the tofu taco: don’t bother unless you’re a freak. The tofu was grilled and marinated in some tangy salty marinade, but the marinade didn’t penetrate very far into the tofu. Every vegetarian I have ever met swears it can be flavored yet I personally have never tasted a piece of tofu that was truly seasoned. Tofu must be pretty dense; why are we making bulletproof vests of Kevlar, when a squishy, milky- white tofu vest is so much more impenetrable? At the very least we should consider making CONDOMS of tofu because obviously flavorful liquids can’t seep past it.
The aloha slider ($2) is the first and only sandwich that’s actively trying to provoke me. That’s because it has SPAM on it. Spam sucks. The great Jonathan Kauffman, formerly of the Seattle Weekly and an extraordinary yet understated dude (who has sadly left our faggy city for the even MORE fudge- packer friendly San Francisco) has predicted a Spam craze of the same magnitude as our current bacon mania (note: I don’t know if he actually wrote this or if I just made it up. Fuck journalism). While I personally believe that Kauffman is a prophet and is in fact the Salman Rushdie of food writing (I’d call him the J.D. Salinger but Kauffman is too prolific), I must disagree: Spam will never grip the popular imagination the way bacon has. That’s because Spam sucks. You may argue that Spam is really just a terrine of sorts, but if you make that argument I will punch you in the neck. Spam is an abomination; a slice of the festering pustulent nutsack of a gibbering insane Lovecraftian god. Spam is not food. Spam is your mom.
My friend and I tried to fry Spam once. At first it seemed somewhat appealing, though not necessarily edible: bubblegum pink and finely textured like a rubber pencil eraser. Then as it cooked the slices shrank down into brown leathery hockey pucks floating in a pool of their own rendered fat. Even though we were totally drunk we both refused to eat it, and THAT my friends has got to be some kind of anomaly because when I get drunk enough I’ll eat an Almond Joy without irony.
Still, the aloha slider surprised me: A slab of grilled spam cozied down in a nest of pulled pork, with more of the same sweet and tangy taco slaw on one of those weird sweet Hawaiian rolls. With a smoky, charred crust and surprisingly edible interior, the Spam was actually quite tasty. Besides, two kinds of meat are always better than one, even if one of the meats in question is Spam.
I really wanted to sneer at Marination because the only fusion I endorse is the fusion of your mom’s genitals with mine. And even THAT isn’t really very good. But Marination won me over because it is CHEAP: I ordered EVERY SINGLE MENU ITEM (except the drinks; I can buy my own can of Mr. Pibb, thanks) and the total was $28. And yes they did reuse a lot of the same ingredients over and over again, like the pulled pork and the slaw and the spicy pink saucy stuff, but it’s on a TRUCK for fuck’s sake. SO yeah: Marination is good, but it isn’t as good as getting a blowjob from a leprechaun on the deck of the solid platinum yacht you just won in the lottery. Still, it’s a solid value. Stick to the kalbi beef tacos and the aloha sliders and you can’t miss.
Rating: 6 Leprechauns out of 10