If you live in Los Angeles, most of you know that gourmet food trucks are all the rage right now. At a recent sake tasting and food pairing event back in early June, a fellow blogger (Gourmet Pigs) asked if I heard about Manila Machine. I said no and she proceeded to explain that they were going to launch any day and they would be L.A.’s first Filipino gourmet food truck. Wow! Who would have thought? She also told me that the venture was started by two Filipino-American bloggers under the monikers “Let Me Eat Cake” and “Burnt Lumpia”.
I was intrigued by this and when I got home that evening, a little buzzed from all the sake I had consumed, I logged on to my computer to see what information I could gather on Manila Machine. As Gourmet Pigs said, Manila Machine would soon be making their debut and joining the gourmet food truck scene. I checked out their menu and it looked inviting. A few items I was unfamiliar with but I got the gist of their menu–a simple menu that could successfully and easily be executed on a food truck.
As some of you know, I’m a fairly new blogger and most of my posts have been about restaurants that I have dined at in and around Southern California. Surprising to some people, I have not posted any items that relate to my Filipino roots. I don’t frequent Filipino restaurants since the dishes that I do like are fairly limited and I can count on my mother or my mother-in-law for an occasional hit when the mood for Filipino food strikes. But I digress…back to Manila Machine.
I finally saw a chance to try Manila Machine without having to drive into L.A. Since I work ten minutes from the city of Calabasas, I saw that The Commons was hosting “Street Eatz”, an event which featured and would introduce eight of L.A.’s gourmet food trucks to the West Valley. West Valley to me is anything west of the 405 Freeway. I was pretty excited about the food trucks that would be serving at The Commons and among them was Manila Machine! The event ran from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. so I thought that was more than enough time to try the cuisine of at least two, maybe three trucks.
Of course, I get tied up at work so what was originally a plan to get there by 5:00 p.m. was now “get there as soon as possible”. My friend Conjie decided to join me and we headed over around 5:30 p.m. Big mistake to leave later. The place was packed and cars were circling the parking lot. I could see the trucks and the long lines of people waiting patiently in the 80 degree heat to place their orders. I finally found a parking space across the street from The Commons (illegally actually; I parked in the lot of an office park and hoped that my car–actually my husband’s–would still be there when I got back). It was a short walk and I couldn’t get over how long the lines were, about 30 deep for almost every truck (the shortest was the Sweets Truck). It was already after 6:00 p.m. when we arrived and judging by the length of the lines and the speed at which they were moving, we knew that we could only choose one truck so we made the decision to try Manila Machine (gotta represent, being Filipino and all and be supportive). If there was time for one more truck, then we’d head over to Komodo.
The line moved at a snail’s pace. Not just at Manila Machine but with all the other trucks as well. It gave me a chance to Tweet, post on Facebook, take a few photos, study their menu and chat with a few people in line, some whom have never had Filipino food before. The minute I posted on Facebook that I was in line at Manila Machine, my cell phone rang. It was my son Trenton who just saw my post and wanted me to order him something as well. So now I had to include him in my order. For the event they were serving a limited version of their menu so I was a bit disappointed since I had already decided what to order before I arrived at the event. I was going to order the Spamsilog, spam served with garlic fried rice and a fried egg; two Original Manila Dips which was shredded chicken adobo and caramelized onions on a pan de sal roll and served with an adobo dipping sauce; and two Tapas, sweet calamansi beef, achara slaw, and spicy sriracha mayo on a pan de sal roll. Unfortunately, the Spamsilog wasn’t on their limited menu for the event. Okay–that still left the sliders, the lumpia and turon so I was still in good shape.
There were about eight people in front of us in line when we got the news that the fryer wasn’t working so they wouldn’t be able to serve any of the fried items—of course, that was on my list too. I was going to order the Lumpiang Shanghai and the Turon for dessert. Lumpiang Shanghai is seasoned pork, carrots, and spicy ginger wrapped in thin eggroll skins and deep-fried. They also serve a Vegetable Lumpia for those of you who don’t eat meat. Turon is plantain-type bananas (sturdy for deep frying; not the Dole Chiquita Banana kind) wrapped in lumpia wrapper and deep fried till golden brown. My mom makes the best Turon and I wanted to see how Manila Machine would measure up. So with the news that the fryer was now on the fritz, I had to re-think my order yet again. I just hoped that there would at least be one type of slider left by the time I placed my order. So after discussing with Conjie, we decided to order three Original Manila Dip sliders, three Tapa sliders, and an Ube Cupcake to share. Ube is a purple yam and is popular in the Philippines. I knew my son doesn’t like sweets so one cupcake was fine.
I finally reached the head of the line and my order was taken by Natassia, one of the two founders of Manila Machine and author of the blog, “Let Me Eat Cake” (Natassia tweets under this name too). Fortunately, they did not run out of sliders and once the order was successfully placed, we had to step to the side to wait for our order to be filled.
About ten minutes later, Natassia was handing out lumpia to everyone waiting, thanking us for our patience. Apparently, they got their fryer fixed so they were now able to offer some of their fried items. Of course this would happen AFTER I placed my order. I thought the lumpia was okay and thought it fried a bit too long. For $2, I can put that towards a package of lumpia that I can pick up at Seafood City and fry up a whole batch myself. $2 seemed a bit steep to me.
We were picking up our order finally when we were then told that they had run out of Ube Cupcakes. Disappointment again set in. When we were told early on that Turon wasn’t going to be available, it was at that moment that I decided to try the Ube Cupcake. You see, I am NOT a fan of ube. For some reason, I don’t like it but that opinion was still based on my experience with ube ice cream when I was a teenager. I haven’t had ube since then and I figured that now that my palate has become somewhat sophisticated, I thought, what the heck. I’ll give it a try. Well, that went out the window…and then Manila Machine came through for me. Natassia asked me if I would accept an order of Turon as a substitute (that’s right, the fryer had been fixed!) and I quickly said yes AND she said that she owed me an Ube Cupcake. I told her that I would hold her to that and she told me to contact her via “Let Me Eat Cake”. I’ve yet to collect on my Ube Cupcake…
By the time we got our order, an hour and ten minutes had passed and a half hour shy of 8:00 p.m. Security was already closing off the lines for the other food trucks so we were not able to check out any of the other gourmet food trucks. We left The Commons with three Original Manila Dips, three Tapa Sliders and an order of Turon and we were now on our way back to my house to try out our Manila Machine goodies.
Between the two, I preferred the Original Manila Dip (chicken adobo sliders). The chicken was tender and the dipping sauce was light, not oily, seasoned just perfectly—not too salty or vinegary. The Tapa Slider on the other hand was okay; I was expecting the calamansi (Filipino lime) to brighten up the flavor of the meat but it was subtle. The slaw and sauce that dressed up the Tapa slider was mild in flavor as well. The pan de sal roll was soft and airy; not too sweet which I thought was perfect with the sliders. I would love to see lechon sliders dressed with cabbage slaw and served with lechon sauce—ooh, that would be really yummy and worth standing in line for (save me the crispy skin though—to me, that’s the best part!).
The Turon? Wow! I still think my mom’s is better and on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the best, my mom’s Turon would be a 1, and Manila Machine’s version would be a close second! My mom sprinkles granulated sugar over her Turon and hers are twice the size of Manila Machine’s (and she usually gives me a dozen to take home with me) but Manila Machine drizzles their Turon with caramel! The caramel was not too sweet and it really complimented the banana; I really loved the flavor combination and highly recommend this “on the go” dessert.
All in all, I enjoyed my Manila Machine experience. I would like to make my way through their entire menu and know that I would have to make a trek out to Los Angeles since I live in the ‘burbs and see if I can track down one of their trucks. I’m hoping that someday in the near future that they’ll send a truck out at least once a week to the San Fernando Valley. After all, there’s a huge pinoy population out here too!
For scheduled stops and menu visit their website: www.themanilamachine.com