Friday, June 8, 2012

NIAB: North Austin Trailer Yard


Ok one of my biggest complaints recently have been the unfair distribution of food trailers in Austin. THEY'RE ALL DOWN SOUTH OR EAST ok they are mostly down south and east, there's a random one or two that go north of downtown. Apparently this has changed, the North Austin Trailer Yard (NATY) opened up officially May 12, 2012. There's a modest amount of food trailers here but it's a great start. My girlfriend and I met with our friends Michael and Tina from Cooking for Engineers specifically to check out the Michi Ramen trailer but since I'm on the low carb thing I went and checked out the Big Fat Greek Gyros so I figure this post will be the start of my experiences at the NATY.

So my first stop was the Big Fat Greek Gyros. The owner seemed really nice. I think they're still trying to get their rhythm going. He kept apologizing for the wait, but having done a stint in a trailer and having eaten at a few other trailers waiting is par for the course and the wait time here was well within reasonable. So I shouted a 'you're fine no worries' trying to encourage him. He looked a little stressed.


Anyway they had a special on meatballs (it's not on the regular menu) and if there's meatballs in question then it's kind of an automatic that I'll order it. I couldn't quite make out what the owner was saying, it was something about the meatballs having marinated in a balsamic marinade, honestly he had me at meatball. He browned them on the griddle and resumed warming under some sort of oven/salamander. I thought the meatballs were very tasty and didn't have a lot of filler. They passed the "meat" of the meatball test, I hate meatballs full of bread binder and less actual meat. Michael and I agreed that if the meatballs spent a little more time heating thru it would have tasted even better. There was enough fat in the meatballs that the heat would have brought forth better flavors. Fortunately, I have leftovers that I can play with. They dusted both the meatball dish and my gyro with a blend of herbs, I think oregano and thyme and some other stuff.


Next I got the "Hercules Gyro". I didn't see him cut the meat off the giant rotisserie but he tossed them on the griddle so I'm not sure if the Hercules was different than the standard gyro or that he had cut some down for the previous guy and got mine too and finished mine off on the grill at the same time. Either way it was delicious. The tzatziki sauce tasted freshly made and the gyro was a pretty good size. Yummy! I'll be back I need to try out their other menu items. I read that the baklava was very good.


So onto the ramen truck. Michael got to speak with the owners of the trailers for some background information.  I don't know the full story but apparently they learned to make ramen noodles by hand from a Japanese chef but don't currently make it fresh as it'd be too costly a process (probably from labor) to scale and they may do so in the future. They do however get their noodles from the same place that the famous ramen joints in LA do.

So I don't really know what good ramen is. I've never had the ramen in LA or Houston apparently the stuff they have there is super bomb (that's the phase kids use these days right?). These places purportedly have huge lines and are really really famous. The quick explanation to me was that it's about the texture of the noodles, they had to have a certain amount of "chew" to them and the broth. Now just set aside that thought you have about that stuff you buy for a dime at the grocery store. We're talking a whole different beast here. The picture above is the "Michi" that is in a creamy broth. The meat is a Chashu which is a braised pork belly. Apparently there's a whole topic that can be made of Chashu I'll have to investigate further and make some.


This is the one Tina got which was a miso broth, the egg is a marinated soft boiled egg. Back to what makes good ramen the noodles here had a good "chew" I'd almost call it al dente but I don't think it's exactly like that. It's like a chew but not chewy. I'm not sure how to explain it. Noodles inevitably have to be bought. If you want to make them yourself then you have to dedicate a person to making noodles which gets expensive, so if everyone is sourcing from the best (or the same) then the only real differentiator is broth. If you go to their website they give you the details on their broth. They were not kidding this stuff left me speechless. Just one sip and there's all sorts of flavors going on. It's a very rich and hearty soup that was amazing. I can understand why they have been called the best ramen in Austin by my friends.

Here's a shot of the poached egg. The texture was really good almost as good as a sous vide poached egg. For food safety reasons (because they have to make ahead) they have to refrigerate the eggs. The downside here is that everyone agreed that the egg was too cold to fully enjoy the experience. I think the right thing to do here is upon deliver push the eggs to the bottom of the bowl. Put the cover on and let it warm up.   My girlfriend really loved the big bowl of yummy you can see from her big smile we'll be coming back to this place. You can see from the shot that it's a really large bowl of noodle soup.
Edit: apparently my girlfriend didn't like my picture so she had me take this down.

Ok I'll be whipping up another bento this weekend so stay tuned!

2 comments:

The Charitable Baker said...

That ramen looks amazing!! Yum! I can't wait till you make some ramen broth and show us how!

Ironjack said...

Yeah only it's a big bummer that they've closed their trailer until they can get into a permanent spot. Boo :( hopefully they stay up north austin..

I've contemplated trying to re-create some ramen by hand just as an experiment. I'll have to get past my diet first before trying :)