Mangia Mangia Mobile - Five Course Prix Fixe

>> Monday, June 27, 2011

Date of Dining: 6/16/2011
Price: $20 for 5 course prix fixe, $5 for special order, around $6-9 for items normally
Last Known Weekly Lunch Schedule:
Mon: General Atomic Ct, 92121
Tue: 10150 Sorrento Valley Rd and 1250 Cave St, La Jolla
Wed: 3rd and B
Thu: Ameritrade Sorrento Valley and Scripps Hospital on 550 Washington
Fri: 1250 Cave St, La Jolla

Weekly 5 Course Prix Fixe:
$20 for 5 courses @57 Degrees Wine Bar, 1735 Hancock St

The Quick Bit:
+ Amazing Hospitality - felt like I was talking to a long lost uncle
+ Creative to do a prix fixe dinner menu
+ Ask them to sound the horn for you
+ Daring to do fish on a food truck
Δ Cooking temperatures of the proteins could use work
Δ The chef should cook what he wants instead of what he thinks other people want

I actually had two experiences with Mangia Mangia. The first time, I was dragged into it by my friend and all anonymity was lost. I also found out that they changed the food based on what they thought I would want. As a result of that, I told them that I would attend one of their evening prix fixe menus for the blog post instead. I'll show some photos from the first meal, but refrain from further comments.

In my previous posts here, here, and here, I discussed some of the entrepreneurial aspects of choosing to open a food truck or run a pop-up restaurant. What seems to get lost in that at times is the type of people who run one enterprise or the other.

Mangia Mangia Mobile is a Gourmet Food Truck run by Marko Pavlinovic and Chef Enzo Mauri, who met while working at the popular Trattoria Acqua at Pasquale on Prospect in La Jolla prior to it closing. Chef Mauri received his culinary education in Terni (Umbria), Italy where his grandparents owned a Trattoria. As a youth, he would spend time with his grandmother and mother in the kitchen. Mauri later refined his culinary education in several Italian kitchens in Rome before moving to the USA in 1991. Chef Mauri worked in several San Diego kitchens including Tuscany and Sante Ristorante before opening Pasquale to much success. Pavlinovic worked as a waiter at Pasquale, where the two met and decided to form a partnership to take advantage of the Gourmet Food Truck boom. Chef Enzo describes his food as "old school Italian recipes" that he "ate while growing up at home."

Recently, the food truck boom or revolution that hit LA and OC two years ago has finally taken effect in San Diego. In the past three months, there seems to be about two new trucks opening for operation each month. The streets that were once devoid of food trucks now have food trucks parked in the same general vicinity every day of the week. It has gotten to the point where some food truck owners have gotten possessive with their spots and don't want others to park at their favored locations even on the days they are not there.

Another recent trend in SD is the food truck gatherings. In these situations, the general public is charged a fee to enter the event (anywhere from $5-10) only so they can pay more for food at each of the trucks. Further, certain unscrupulous promoters of these events allegedly charge the trucks anywhere from $200-$500 or 10% of the proceeds for participating in these events.

Yet another challenge of the food trucks are the guerrilla social networking trendy hipsters that like to complain about random things at the four-letter review site. So the only time you attended an event was at a food truck gathering where you saw a huge line of people in front of you. Yet, you still decided to order the food and then you complain that you had to wait 30 minutes for the food to cook? Would you rather they pre-cook your food so it tastes all soggy and nasty?

So with all of these obstacles, what would possess someone to try and run a food truck? I've met several owners of several different food trucks, and for the most part, I am truly humbled by most of them. A lot of people who choose to run the food trucks are great human beings; better than I will ever be. I think to some extent, I hope that some of their innate goodness will rub off on me. Mako was the epitome of this quality in food truck owners; he made me feel like a long lost member of his family when I was with him, and I watched as he made every other diner that evening feel the exact same way. He told jokes to lighten the mood and made the cold, dreary atmosphere of the wine bar light up. I hope that one day when some people come over for food, I will be able to convey the same feeling to my guests because it was easily the most memorable part of the meal.
First Course:
Pear and Gorgonzolla Salad
The pear brought an element of sweetness to the salad that contrasted the gorgonzolla. A thick Italian dressing accompanied to tie the food together.

Second Course:
Bell Pepper Bruschetta
The bread was soggy and the mix was overly salty. The low point of the meal.
Spaghetti with Pesto
This dish was the highlight of the night. The pesto was freshly made, which gave the dish a mouth-watering aroma when served. The Parmesan and Perorino Romano cheese complimented each other well with the fresh herbs that topped the al dente spaghetti. The dish was well-seasoned, which brought out the flavor of the pesto and the cheeses. What really made this dish stand out was that the aroma continued throughout the eating experience, so that four senses were used to enjoy the meal instead of just three.

Fourth Course:
Chicken Breast stuffed with ham and broccoli
This was the better of the two entrees. The chicken was overcooked, but it remained moist in the center - it was very similar to a chicken cordon bleu except that it had an Italian cheese in the middle.
Halibut in tomato broth with peppers and capers
The halibut was overcooked, but maintained texture probably because it was steamed. This dish had a wonderful halibut aroma when it first came out, which made me think it might be the better dish, but the sauce seemed similar to the bruschetta dish and failed for the same reason.

A la carte:
Because I had arranged the meal, Marko asked me if there was anything I really wanted to try as a special request. I decided to pick an ingredient that would showcase the chef's skill
Trippa (tripe)
My thinking with the tripe was that a good chef should be able to take a cheap ingredient and make it taste good. I also knew that tripe was difficult to cook in that there is a window where it is soft enough to enjoy the texture without becoming too mushy. This tripe cooked up by Chef Enzo was excellent. The first bite had a biting white pepper twinge, but my palette adjusted by the second bite and I really enjoyed the flavors and textures.
Chef Enzo mentioned that he would really like to also include chicken hearts and chicken livers in the future.

Fifth Course:
It was nice to have dessert provided, but these were obviously made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator. I'm not sure there's any other choice, but not quite what is expected from a "gourmet food truck" in my opinion.

I went into this meal wondering why I was wasting an evening going out to eat at a food truck. However, Marko's ebullient personality rescued the evening for myself and my dinner companions. While I don't normally consider getting dinner from a food truck to be a great option, this meal certainly beats some restaurants that I've been to. I felt that the $20 was a fair price to pay, and I'm sure Chef Enzo will accommodate special dish requests provided you give enough notice.

I don't think I'm going to rush off and try dinner at every single food truck, but I think the Mangia Mangia experience opens the door for some talented chefs in other food trucks to try something similar.

I'll close with the food that was eaten at the first Mangia experience:
Lollipop (deep fried meatballs)
Spaghetti with Meatballs in Marinara Sauce
Salmon Panini
Gnocchi in Marinara Sauce


San Diego Food Truck Festival

>> Monday, June 20, 2011

Date of Event: 6/19/2011 
Entrance Fee: $6.26 presale, $10 at the door, $22 VIP presale
Number of Trucks: 16

The Quick Bit:
+ Surprisingly quick lines in the beginning
+ Beautiful Venue
+ Plenty of Parking
Δ Security could have faced inside instead of out
Δ More trucks could have showed up
Δ More trucks from outside San Diego could have showed up

I came into this event feeling some large obligation to cover it and thinking that I was going to regret my $6.26 purchase of presale tickets. While there is a lot that I would like to say, the truth is I ended up enjoying this event a lot even though it burned a hole in my wallet. I'll keep my commentary to the next two photos and captions.
Step up and get your tracking bracelet (wait wasn't it supposed to go on the ankle?)
Barb, what is missing in this photo? A wire? Yeah, that must be it!
Onto the food!

Asian Persuasion:
Asian Persuasion

Asian Persuasion just launched on 6/17, two days before this event. While their first menu isn't super inspiring, their prices were certainly nothing to scoff at. Being the new kid on the block and as a matter of discussion, I did end up ordering and starting my day from this truck:
Korean Short Ribs
My Korean short ribs were overcooked and two sweet. The sweet coleslaw did not help to balance the ribs either. Hopefully they change the slaw to kimchee. It also wouldn't hurt to put some furikake on the steamed rice as it looks all  bored and alone sitting there.

Chomp Chomp Nation:
Chomp Chomp - what happened to the jaws on the front?
Chomp Chomp captured my attention with their menu (and since they're not from San Diego), so I decided to order a lot:
Flower Power Tea
So I'll probably take flak for ordering a chick drink, but I saw the name of the drink and I it reminded me that I needed to build my lawn defense before the zombies ate my brain. The Lychee jelly was a little too sweet, but it was a nice balance to the unsweetened tea. I really did enjoy this tea as it was good alone and it was also an excellent compliment to the food.
Chili Crab Cake Sandwich
First, the brioche bun was utterly offensive. It was cold, somewhat stiff, and added an element of sweetness that detracted from the main dish. Those chips were also pretty offensive as half of them were overcooked and the other half were undercooked (or at least they didn't taste any good). With that said, I ate this sandwich open faced with just the bottom of the bun and it was amazing - easily the best dish I had at the event. They got a nice char on the crab cake which sealed in the juices and the sweet and spicy garlic chili sauce was spot on. I felt as if I was eating some chili crab without having to do the work of removing the shells. The slaw of cabbage and julienned cucumbers and carrots was also pleasing and complimented the dish well.
Surf and Turf - Kobe Beef and Tiger Shrimp Satay
I asked for the kobe rare (which is why it's so pink), but they basically gave it to me raw. I expect the chef to at least exercise some good judgment in these situations. Even rare, I couldn't really tell that the beef was kobe, so I think it may have just been a selling point. The tiger shrimp were brined, which gave them an excellent texture. The seasoning on the shrimp was excellent and the highlight of this dish. The satay sauce appeared to be constructed from a variety of canned elements that made it quite unpalatable. I'm not sure what the starch cubes (rice cakes?) where but they could have been left off also.

India On Wheels:
India On Wheels
The first time I visited India on Wheels, I pretty much have a nightmare paratha. However, that visit was the first day they operated and I later learned that they had all sorts of problems turning on appliances on the truck. I figured I would give them another shot at some point and the San Diego Food Truck Festival seemed to be the right time.
Paneer Tikki Masala Curry Rice Bowl with Naan (no rice)
I didn't get a nice closeup shot of the curry, but this curry really impressed me. You could actually see the ground spices that appeared to be hand grown in the preparation. While a lot of Indian restaurants suffer because they are lazy and have to use one generic curry to drive several others, running a food truck with only one or two curries a day allows the owner to focus and properly make the sauce separately for each curry. That care and attention to detail was apparent in this curry. The Naan was passable for a truck but it could have been much better. They needed to brush it in some butter and finish it by crisping it a bit.
Samosa with Mint Chutney
I was a little too busy enjoying the curry and committed a sin by allowing the mint chutney to make the samosa soggy. Even with that, I really did enjoy the samosa. The shell appeared to be some part pastry dough as it was slightly sweetened and it flaked very well. When it was crispy, the crunch combined with the spices of the filling and the freshness of the mint chutney made this samosa extremely enjoyable. My only regret was not eating this before the curry.
By this time, I was pretty full and all the lines had started to become huge:
View from the back of the Devilicious Line (the longest)
I decided to call the day while I was ahead as I had eaten at two great trucks and one new one that needs to find its stride. If I learned something from India On Wheels, it's that the food trucks need some time to find their way. Hopefully Asian Persuasion will improve as there really aren't any Asian food trucks in San Diego (psst a good Chinese Food truck would be killer especially since there are no *good* Chinese restaurants in San Diego).
I'll leave with photos of all the trucks and their menus from the event.
Mangia Mangia:
Sorry! I forgot to get just the truck!
Two for the Road:
Crepes Bonaparte:
The Gathering Spot Bistrotruck:
Sorry! I forgot to get a photo of just the truck!
Kona Ice:
Chunk-n-Chip Cookies:
Pierogi Truck:
Tabe BBQ:
Kaminski's Super Q:
Mangia Mangia, sorry for not getting a photo of your truck. Please accept my apology as you will be the next food truck reviewed on this site. Gathering Spot Bistrotruck, I'm also very sorry for not getting a good photo of your truck. I did manage to get a decent photo with the entire truck though so I hope that will do!


About This Blog

gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
If any special treatment is provided to the blogger, full disclosure is presented at the beginning of the post.

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