A Mexican Commentary on the Muy Bueno Kogi BBQ Burrito
It was about 10 after midnight Sunday Morning when the mysterious Ben Dayhoe and I descended into his lair and cut a short-rib Kogi BBQ burrito for the two of us to split. We had spent two hours on the sidelines of the famed taco truck, which was dishing out its Korean-style Mexican food from the parking lots of the Santiago Street Lofts in SanTana, where Kogi had set up for the night. I actually had the second spot reserved for me by Dayhoe's neighbor, but had to give it up as I forgot that the Network of Arab-American Professionals' Orange County chapter invited to me speak at their banquet about the similarities between Mexis and Middle Easterners. After finishing the speech and talking to attendees about how to detonate a dirty nuke (kidding! The most scandalous subject was KLSX-FM's 97.1 idiotic format change), I rushed out and arrived at Kogi's around 10pm, only to find a long line and the news they had cut it off.
Damn! Dayhoe, I and a tall Mexican from Jalisco decided to stay until the bloody end and beg for scraps. The Jaliscan and I tried to bribe Kogi's Mexican workers with beers and curse words, but they refused (take that, Know Nothings! Honorable Mexicans who don't succumb to bribes!). At one point, I even took out a $20 bill from my wallet and prepared to offer it to anyone who would give me their burrito, but I thought better--surely, no burrito could be worth $20?
But, after eating the Kogi burrito (Dayhoe finagled the last one of the night through means I'm not at liberty to disclose, although let's say a quick dash away from the truck was involved), consider me a Kogi acolyte. The main consensus from those I talked to who ate the burritos, tacos, and other Kogi treats in the Santiago Lofts parking lot was that, while the food was excellent, it wasn't worth waiting in line for hours. Like hell it wasn't: the burrito has the potential to be the greatest Mexi-Asian fusion since the china poblana dress.
I say potential because, while the Kogi burrito was one of the best I've ever tasted (sweet kalbi meat heavy on a toasty flavor due to sesame seeds, crunchy kimchi-styled roughage), there is much room for improvement. Primeramente, the burrito is currently more Korean than Mexican. They claim to put in a salsa, but I felt no heat. Amp it up; Mexis and Koreans love the burn. While the lettuce and cabbage were wonderful, it didn't pucker the lips like a great kimchi can; again, Mexicans and Koreans adore their pickled products. No rice? A sin. And the one weak link of the Kogi burrito is the flour tortilla--not cooked long enough to create the perfect medium between soft and crunchy.
Would I wait hours in line for the chance to eat at Kogi again? Ne ("Si," in Korean). I have a lot of reading to do, and a couple of hours will let me kill that stack of Harper's and Simpsons comics in my bedroom. The payoff is great, and there's still a whole menu to discover other than burritos obtained under bizarre circumstances. Kogi obviously doesn't need any advice right now, what with their masteful Twitter campaign, obsessed fans, and mucho media attention. But if you follow my advice, Kogistas, you can get the wabs of the world instead of mere foodies, hipsters, college kids, and pochos--and then, you can truly conquer California.
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