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Taxicab Confessions: I don't love Kogi anymore.

I'm grateful to Roy Choi for kicking off the gourmet food truck craze, bringing food to the office workers stuck in Chow-free parts of the city, and for affording me a chance to revisit the kimchi burrito of my misspent Westwood youth, but...

...I don't think the food is improving with popularity.

That same sharp orange salsa seems to be on or in just about everything and the result is that many items taste similar. The Blackjack quesadilla is usually good (and has a decent green salsa) but the last couple of times it has been a little bit tough. And the much-vaunted kalbi taco was gristly, and cold even before it got to me; the last time I ordered that was the last time. Even at $2 that's not a bargain.

Also, the sodium level is staggeringly high. I mean, I still feel the salt even after two beers and a litre of water. Everything is terribly, terribly salty and I think it's the salsas.

I'm hoping that I got two off days and this isn't indicative. Both bad experiences were the Naranja truck, incidentally.

I feel like I am slaying a sacred cow here but objectively, if Kogi were in a food truck lot like the short-lived one in the People's Republic, it wouldn't be my destination.

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  1. Fret not, Das. I’ve got your back on this (and virtually ALL of your other posts). Having a combined total of well over 75 years of experience and passion for Mexican and Korean food, I must confess that I was underwhelmed with Kogi from the getgo. Once was enough. Ah, Kogi, it too shall come to pass, unless …

    1. From my last Kogi foray (3 weeks ago), I'm afraid I must concur that a decrease in quality is indeed detectable.

      1. I found a new love this weekend... the Flying Pig Truck... they get the tacos and the buns right ON!!


        4 Replies
        1. re: Dommy

          Tacos, yes, but the buns were more than somewhat chewy. Still, it's a lovely effort, and long may they wave.

          Dommy refers to an exhibit last weekend from some budding caterers out of an incubation center in Pasadena. Lots of nice grub put out to taste, including pork belly bao and duck tacos from the folks she mentions, an awful lot of killer biscotti, and some German stuff that hauls me right back to my pre-Revolutionary roots. There's an awful lot of food going on in LA County, kids, and we all really need to get out and dig it.

          1. re: Dommy

            Hi Dommy,

            Nice! :) Any website or news on when they'll be hitting the road? Thanks.

            1. re: exilekiss

              They already out there! :) Looking forward to when our paths cross again!!



            2. re: Dommy

              Second Flying Pig, it's superb. I tried basically everything on their menu and it was all amazing. RIch with international flavors, not particularly asian. Especially loving their sliders, which are actual sliders with patties (mixed pork and beef).

              That said, I still love Kogi. Agreed that quality is up and down a bit, but even on the lowest end it's still good and a good deal. One key is to always ask what the special is ... the special is often fantastic. Alibi has always been less tasty than the trucks for some reason ... who knows why, maybe there's something about the greasy confines of the truck's grill that gets flavors mixed together. Plus they don't have specials.

            3. When has $2 for a taco ever been a bargain?

              3 Replies
              1. re: andytseng

                it is all about the $1.00 tacos on breed st....or what used to be the breed st night market. sigh.....

                1. re: wilafur

                  I hate to tell you but tacos are not $1 anymore there... :(

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    the more important question is.....are the vendors still congregating (critical mass) anymore?

              2. The very first time I had a kogi taco it was pretty damn good, great flavors, pipping hot with a freshly made tortilla. The special was good as well. burnt rice kimchi porrdige. never seen that again. But that was when they had 1 truck and roy choi was there. Since then I've really only been to the alibi room. The tacos were never as good. The sauce was sometimes too much. The tortillas are sometimes cold and hard. Though I've never had a bad blackjack quesadilla there. I think it's a matter of expansion and the difficulty with quality control.

                1. My one and only experience with Kogi was just a few weeks ago. Got a kalbi taco and the blackjack quesadilla from whatever truck parks on Miracle Mile. I was shocked at how oddly salty and sour the blackjack was. Gloppy with cheese, greasy, salty, sour bomb overload. The kalbi taco, like yours, was cold and had an off taste. I stood there wondering what all the hype was about, as I have been eating and enjoying the beef tacos from the Bool truck from several months now and expected the Kogi truck to be better (or at least as good). It was not.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. I had my first experience with Kogi last night, and I must confess, it was somewhat underwhelming. I've been following the gourmet food truck craze, but have rarely been in the vicinity of one, and, after hearing the horror stories about long waits, never really had the inclination. I do love taco trucks and taco stands, though, so I've been interested.

                    Last night, I was driving home from work at 8:30 and realized I had no food in my house. I didn't have time to order anything for pick-up and didn't want to drive too far from my house, so I resigned myself to <hands head in shame> Taco Bell. Then, to my total shock, I saw two trucks parked a half-block from the Taco Bell and one of the said "Kogi BBQ." (The other was a shaved ice truck.) I was really excited, so I did a U-turn, hopped in line, and ordered a short rib and a bbq pork taco. Then I heard out that the truck -- the Azul -- stops regularly at that location and at a gas station in Encino, so I thought, "great, I'll have a great option when I'm running home late and my only options seem like fast food."

                    Then I got the tacos. The verdict? Meh. The meat was flavorful, but okay. The short rib was somewhat gristly and the pork rather fatty. The tortillas were lukewarm and seemed like they had sat for a while. The topping was okay, but i didn't notice any orange salsa. It wasn't bad, and would do in a pinch, but it certainly didn't sound like the food that people have been raving about for months. I was left with the impression that maybe Kogi tastes a lot better when it's late at night and you're really drunk.

                    1. Funny you mention the gristle. Recently, a friend of mine actually pulled the gristly meat out of his kalbi taco, took a photo of the gristle (some pieces as large as a quarter, which my friend put in the photo in order to show scale) and emailed the photo to the Kogi folks.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: spicygal

                        i would love to hear if the kogi folks respond.

                      2. I wish I had seen this before I went today! I'm here from San Francisco and I was SO EXCITED when i found out a Kogi truck was going to be in front of UCLA Medical Center and I had to be at the hospital today. I had the shortrib taco, the spicy pork taco, and the Kogi sliders. I found the meat uninspired, very salty, and the vegetables/salsa on top a big pile of mush. And the buns on the sliders were slathered in mayo (which i usually LOVE) that did not go well with the saltiness of the meat at all. Really disappointed, and was hesitant to post but I'm glad someone spoke of the emperor being naked. In San Francisco we have what's called Kung Fu Tacos, a one-truck operation, that spends a few weeks at a time at one location every day before moving real estate. I love their tacos (they also have a duck taco on the menu) but I thought for sure when I tried Kogi's - what with all the hype I'd read - yours would blow ours away (and sorry, I NEVER think that about food in L.A. - i grew up here.) Sorry to say it's not true, but glad that I have the tacos I like near me!

                        Staying in Orange County, in Westminster (grew up here too but never became a big fan before I moved up north), and now i'm on a mission to find the best banh mi place. But that's another thread....

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: mariacarmen

                          Unfortunately, Kogi's quality has downhill lately - It is a mere shadow of the Kogi truck at the height of its glory 6 months ago.

                          1. re: mariacarmen

                            Six months is a pretty short timespan to go downhill in . . . is it because they expanded too quickly, too many trucks?

                            1. re: mariacarmen

                              Sadly, yes, I believe so. They probably realized that quality can suffer a bit, and the $$ still rolls in, as long as the "hype" is out there. Just my $0.02...

                            2. re: mariacarmen

                              I think there must be some amount of variance between the trucks and from night to night. I've seen reports like this, but personally I've had only solid Kogi runs in the last few months, as recently as a week or so ago. Been going nearly as long as it's been around and haven't witnessed this supposed drop-off. That said, it was *always* just a $2.50 taco truck. Hype was always going to be a factor. It's possible that this isn't attributable to some perceived falloff in quality, and that you wouldn't have liked it from the beginning. I've never liked the mayo on the sliders myself, and sometimes ask for it off it's the line is short enough that I don't feel like I'm being annoying. :)

                              1. re: QualityMart

                                Way over-salty, mushy veggies, meh meat - you're right, I probably wouldn't have liked that from the beginning, but i can't imagine others liking that either - and others above have agreed with these flaws. Maybe you're right about the different trucks.