Korean + Japanese ReInvented
What do you do when you are in Emeryville, CA while your spouse is in business meetings all day? Look for interesting food of course!
Lucky for me there was a Koja Kitchen about a block away from the hotel. This establishment is interesting on several levels. The food is new and inventive...but also their entrepreneurial story is great. They're one of those food truck success stories that we love to hear about. After reading about how they had gone from a lone food truck to bricks-and-mortar to regional franchise, I grabbed my jacket, hotel key card and headed over.
Another foodtruck success story...
Arguably I didn't even have what "put this place on the map" - something they simply call the Koja owning up to their KO-rean and JA-panese roots.
Instead, I wanted to taste how they were building complex flavors in a quick-serve setting. I eagerly picked two separate items to compare and contrast.
Short Rib Bowl
This dish caught my attention because typically short ribs take about 3 hours of braising to turn into something good, which seems mildly challenging for any restaurant, let alone one with food truck beginnings.
Well, Koja Kitchen got it right. The tenderness and flavor was all there.
My only misgivings were: 1) it was a touch too sweet and 2) the small bit of masago, while visually appealing, was lost under the stronger beef flavors. It was essentially wasted. Minor stuff surely.
The Miso Braised Pork was most satisfying. The pork was unctuous and both the miso flavor and masago came through. The soft corn tortillas and juicy, well seasoned pork made for one great taco, which is why if it has to come down to it, choose the tacos over the bowls.
BOTTOM LINE: This former food truck is still proving why it was able to make the move to bricks-and-mortar. If you want a different, and yet at the same time, familiar taste...be sure to seek out a KoJa location and give it a try.
Miso Braised Pork Taco