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Monday, June 1, 2009

Marked5: Could This Be the Next Kogi?

If you like tonkatsu, chicken katsu curry or hambaga suteiku, as in Japanese-style hamburger steak, you're in for a treat at Marked5, the latest mobile food parlor courtesy of the post-kogi barbecue truck craze. The twist? It isn't a rice bowl. It isn't a burger either. It's a rice burger! Before you say, What the &%$@, let me assure you that it is a great concept and you will want to try it at least once.

So the "bun" is made out of white rice bunched up into patty size rounds to resemble two sides of an actual hamburger bun. The actual "patty" can be any of four menu items made out of beef, pork, chicken and tofu.

After a full meal, we ran into this truck as we leisurely walked around Abbot Kinney in Venice. But we had to try it. My dinner mate had memories of Mos Burger in Japan where this rice burger concept first took off.

The tonkatsu burger is deep fried breaded pork tenderloin with a touch of the salty, sweet and tangy dark brown tonkatsu sauce and some shredded cabbage. First off, the patty was on the skimpy side. But it was decent although the sauce was on the sweet side. The remedy? Death ketchup, of course! We smothered some Sriracha sauce that was handy and voila, the rice burger tasted like a veritable meal on the go. Think rice bowl without the bowl. Tonkatsu-don on the go!

Then we tried the chicken katsu curry, which is deep fried chicken pieces smothered in Japanese-style curry with a bit of a kick. I loved this concept but execution was a bit iffy. The spice level was good enough. No death or any kind of ketchup or condiments needed. And I love rice and curry.

While I didn't get to sample them, there is Japanese-style hamburger steak (well done only, meaning you can't have it medium rare, bloody meat-lovers -- yours truly included) and a tofu patty burger. It also offers shrimp chips with lotus roots and shrimp spring rolls, which I didn't taste but looked good.

I loved that the truck sold some of my favorite items such as rice crackers wrapped in seaweed, multiple kinds of green tea and oolong tea, wasabi-covered peas and Pocky crackers. Not to mention the Sriracha sauce displayed out front for all the heat you'd ever want to add to your rice burger.

The owner said the cooks have some impressive resumes but truth be told, I think it's a tough endeavor because of the sheer nature of deep fried foods. To really savor an excellent tonkatsu and chicken katsu, they have to come straight out of the deep fryer, super hot and crunchy. There's no time to waste on assembly, making sure the rice pebbles on the "bun" don't fall apart.

You know there will invariably be calls for brown rice buns or non-fried chicken, etc. But I actually wouldn't mind the regular chicken curry for that reason. I love fried food as much as the next person, but cold fried food just doesn't do it for me. When it's mixed in with the curry, it's hard to bite into and may actually contribute to the rice bun falling apart. It's also not dirt cheap like a taco, at $5 a pop.

I'd like to see them succeed, but they may have to tweak some of the items to really hit it big, I think. But then again, I don't even like kogi and look at that craze. You can follow Marked5 on Twitter.

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persimmongirl said...

looks delicious. there was a burger chain in tokyo with buns made out of rice... never got to try it but it's on my list.

ironchef442 said...

probably mos burger. that's the one my friend told me about. she used to go there when she lived in japan although truck owners said they wanted theirs to be a lot better than mos. one more reason for you to visit la :)