Restau­rant Re­view

Street Food In­sti­tute

Pasatiempo - - ADVERTISEMENT - Lau­rel Glad­den

This is one of those times when I’ll forgo an in­tro that paints a pic­ture or tells a story and get straight to the point: Great things are hap­pen­ing at Street Food In­sti­tute, the vividly striped food-truck-with-a-pur­pose that is lately an­chored in the grav­elly lot across the street from Kaune’s Neigh­bor­hood Mar­ket.

With the sup­port of chef and pro­gram di­rec­tor David Sellers (whose rep­u­ta­tion for his work at San­ta­café and Amavi pre­cedes him), SFI be­gan with ex­cel­lent in­ten­tions: “rais­ing the bar for street food” and help­ing aspir­ing young cooks gain the pro­fes­sional and culi­nary skills they’ll need to start busi­nesses of their own down the road. SFI worked in tan­dem with Cen­tral New Mex­ico Com­mu­nity Col­lege to es­tab­lish its cur­ricu­lum, whereby stu­dents learn to de­velop busi­ness plans and menus and ac­quire hands- on, re­al­world ex­pe­ri­ence cook­ing for and on the truck. For most of last win­ter, SFI spent its time on the cam­pus of CNM. Back in Santa Fe, it has found what seems to be an ideal spot, just a stone’s throw from the Round­house, though a good bit of prep hap­pens in the kitchens of Santa Fe Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

The food-truck rev­o­lu­tion has taken root slowly in Santa Fe com­pared with other, big­ger lo­cales, but that’s OK. One of the ben­e­fits of a smaller-city food-truck scene is that lines are rarely long and waits are typ­i­cally short. The menu at SFI is brief enough to be listed on a chalk­board stand, but the in­trigu­ing op­tions, which can vary from day to day, have re­cently in­cluded red curry pork over sticky rice, a burger with sun- dried tomato aioli and chipo­tle ketchup, and an as­sort­ment of sand­wiches that are ac­com­pa­nied by SFI’s thick, golden salt-and-vine­gar potato chips. While you wait for your food, grab a seat at one of the reg­u­la­tion wood pic­nic ta­bles and en­joy the shade of one of the cheer­fully col­or­ful um­brel­las.

One of the foods that jump-started the cur­rent food-truck re­vival was Korean bar­be­cue. Per­haps in homage to that fact, tacos of that sort of­ten head up the menu at SFI — one day built with pork shoul­der; an­other day, beef short ribs. The su­per-ten­der beef was doused in a funky-sweet sauce, the house kim­chi pro­vided a bal­anc­ing spicy acid­ity, fresh sprigs of cilantro of­fered a leafy-green bite, and shred­ded fresh cab­bage lent some crunch. The re­sult­ing com­bi­na­tion was ad­dic­tively de­li­cious.

The chicken sand­wich is tak­ing the country by storm right now — from Oak­land’s Bake­sale Betty to David Chang’s re­cently opened Chick-Fil-A-in­spired Fuku and the Chick’n Shack sand­wich at New York’s Shake Shack. Other than its name and a rich ré­moulade with a hint of herby Old Bay, there’s not much dis­tinctly Ca­jun about SFI’s Ca­jun chicken sand­wich. But the but­ter­milk-brined meat is some of the most ten­der I’ve tasted, and its nub­bly corn­meal bat­ter is a thing near and dear to my heart, just like the kind that swad­dles oys­ters and cat­fish across the South. Served with let­tuce and tomato on a fresh, crusty, but eas­ily noshed baguette, this sand­wich could hold its own against any big-coastal-city con­tenders. The only thing it might be miss­ing is a pickle.

The Provençal veggie sand­wich is some­thing like rata­touille on bread, with ten­der grilled zuc­chini and egg­plant along with roasted red pep­pers, that sun- dried tomato aioli — lovely and mild — and a bit of tangy goat cheese. The wal­nut-black-olive sour­dough had a pe­cu­liar — though not un­en­joy­able — sweet­ness and gave an oth­er­wise soft and squishy sand­wich a wel­come tex­tu­ral crunch.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.