Food Truck: Coney Shack
Sighting: 47th and Park
Country: Southeast Asia
Usually the selection of food trucks on a given block at a time is pretty unique. It’s rare to see two trucks of the same kind together.
But coming to 47th and Park today I saw two “Asian Taco” trucks, Coney Shack and Domo Taco. I hadn’t been to either of them, but both of them seemed to have the same promise: food with the convenience of a Latin American taco and the flavors of Asia.
Admittedly my expectations were a little low. I’ve had “fish tacos” in the past and have usually been underwhelmed. I never quite saw the appeal. Plus, when I think of words like “burrito” and “taco”, I think of things like yellow rice and beans, not lemongrass chicken and Asian beef shortribs. But I figured I’d give it a shot.
I stood back for a little bit and noticed that Coney Shack was getting a lot more foot traffic than Domo Taco, despite the clearly superior name of the latter. It was clear why just looking at the menu. The Coney Shack menu was very clear–they had four food groups, the Taco, the Hot Dog, the Burrito, and the Quesadilla each with a very distinct set of ingredients. The Domo Taco truck had a similar menu but just didn’t seem as clear cut.
Also, Coney Shack had a sign highlighting that they won the Rookie of the Year award at the 2015 Vendy Awards, which I found to also be impressive. I decided to go with them.
I saw that they had a $10 rice bowl special with Hainanese chicken rice, which is easily among my most favorite foods in the whole world. But since their claim to fame appears to be tacos, I figured I’d order those instead and get the chicken rice bowl some other time.
Individual tacos are $4 each and it’s 3 for $11, so it was a no-brainer to get the three. I asked the nice woman at the window what the most popular flavors were and she said the Beer Battered Crunchy Fish taco, the Vietnamese Beef Shortrib, and the Five Spice Calamari. I decided to go for those three.
The order took about 5-7 minutes to be made, but when it came the presentation was beautiful. Unlike other trucks where they’ll throw your food into a paper bag and it’s anyone’s guess what you’ll see when you open it, these tacos were carefully placed in the aluminum container and then placed carefully so the contents wouldn’t shift in transit. I appreciated them putting as much care into the presentation as they did the food. When I got back to the office the food looked as amazing as it did at the truck.
The Beer Battered Crunchy Fish taco was amazing. I don’t know what it is about Asian deep frying but for some reason whether I’m eating a piece of fried fish or a piece of fried chicken it tastes much lighter than your Arthur Treacher’s or KFC, almost to the point of it feeling healthy. In this case, the batter was crispy but light and flaky with a very subtle deep fried taste. The fish was also light with a wonderful mild taste, and on top of it was cabbage, cilantro, scallions, and thinly sliced onions with a mayo dressing (or more accurately, a lemongrass aioli), all on top of a soft tortilla. This is one where I made sure I ate every last piece that fell into my dish.
The Vietnamese Beef Shortrib was also beautiful to look at, with carmelized onions, daikon radish, and cilantro, garlic, toasted sesame seeds, and sweet chili spicy mayo dressing. And of course, the beef which was tender and marinated in a sweet soy sauce. Some may find off-putting the fact that there’s chewy tendons mixed in with the beef, but Asians will tell you that’s actually the best part. The combination of flavors is exquisite.
Finally, the five spice calamari. The squid is fried in the same light batter as the fish, and again the mix of the flavors of the crispy calamari with 5 spice, picked red onion, aioli, and a tomato basil creole sauce makes its flavor remarkably unique as well and thoroughly satisfying.
What impressed me is that each of the three tacos had a distinct personality of its own. The fish taco was light and crisp with a refreshing quality, the shortrib was sweet and savory with a richness, and the calamary had an exotic, complex flavor that did interesting things with the five spices.
I don’t dole out five star reviews very much, but this truck had it all. I will be going back.
5 of 5
Price I paid: $11
Line: 5 mins
Tricks for fast ordering: Do the 3 for 11 taco mix-match. Choose any taco at random, they’re all good.
What to order if you’re a newbie: 3 for 11 with fish, shortribs, calamari.