For most food truck operators, going mobile isn’t the end game, and that’s understandable, with countless hours on the road, in traffic, to reach short-lived points of sale. Often times, customers feel like they’re tracking a moving target, and as more trucks hit the streets, some people are giving up the hunt altogether. However, some savvy entrepreneurs are graduating to brick and mortar establishments. One of the leading examples is Komodo, an Asian café that promises “dangerously good food” in Beverlywood.
It’s not like Eric Tjahyadi and chef/brother Erwin Tjahyadi have turned their backs on trucks. They still have one Komodo truck on the road, and the wall of their glass fronted, fast casual business features a mural of a beachfront line for their food. Komodo, named for a fierce Indonesian lizard, also houses an open kitchen, metal furniture, and a pressed tin ceiling.
Komodo built their following from tacos, burritos and rice bowls, and they’re all available in Beverlywood. One of my favorite standbys is Mochiko Fried Chicken ($8), a Hawaiian style bird marinated in a proprietary batter, fried and oven-baked, with juicy dark meat and a crusty, caramelized coating. We prefer our entrees with slightly nutty brown rice, though white rice is also an option. Mixed greens join proteins regardless.
Komodo might not be an actual dragon, but some dishes practically cause customers to breathe fire. Gambas Al Ajillo Shrimp ($9.50) features plump shrimp sauteed with smoked paprika, chile powder, garlic and fresh squeezed lemon juice, resulting in residual heat. The Blazin’ Shrimp Rice Bowl ($9) with spicy Singaporean shrimp also stings lips, but sour cream and lettuce salad provides relief.
Of course, with a menu that’s growing all the time, some proteins fare better than others. Miso Marinated Steak ($9) is probably my least favorite plate to date, with seared chunks of steak marinated in intense, almost muddy miso sauce. Asian Marinated Chicken with grilled chicken and Mandarin oranges also doesn’t generate much pop.
Every ingredient on the planet seems to be grist for tacos and burritos in Los Angeles, whether they meld well with tortillas or not. However, we were pleasantly pleased by a blackboard special, the Roma Burrito ($8) with juicy seared Italian sausage (housemade) and tangy “Puttanesca” vegetables in a flour tortilla. An Italian sausage burrito? Sure, why not.
We regularly return to experience menu additions, including Seasonal Whitefish ($10), a fish that should play well in a heavily Jewish neighborhood, especially since the juicy, well-seasoned fillet comes blanketed with sweet but not cloying cream corn sauce.
The ominous Killer Combo ($10) includes a choice of four classic tacos on double stacked, standard issue corn tortillas. These tacos could use better tortillas and more thoughtful salsas but some of the fillings are interesting. Fish & Grapes involves flaky, deep fried Alaskan cod served with a grape and shaved almond salad that’s fairly sweet, but good. We enjoyed more of the lip tingling Singaporean style shrimp with cooling sour cream and lettuce salad. Java referred to Indonesian shredded pork rendang braised in coconut cream with tomato and cucumber salad and topped with fried shallots. Unfortunately, the core ingredient wasn’t particularly juicy or flavorful. MP3 was a fun combination of top sirloin cubes, tater tots, garlic aioli and a seared quail egg. Unfortunately, the only condiment we even considered squeezing on the combo consisted of an oh-so-mild tomato based salsa.
With all the food trucks fluttering around the city, good options have become increasingly difficult to pinpoint, but it’s good to know that mobile proprietors like the Tjahyadi brothers are settling down and cranking up the ambition on their offerings.