Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tacopocalypse: Asian/Mexican fusion with a healthy dose of American comfort.

Since its inception a number of years back, Tacopocalypse has been the wandering vagabond of the nouveau taco, with Tuesday night appearances at the Cumming Tap and the Saturday morning Downtown Farmers' Market [see blog post], the latter arrangement ending with the 2012 season after never-ending exasperations with Market organizers. Along the way Tacopocalypse also became a fixture at various events around town.

Seeking roots Chef Sam Auen settled into an arrangement with the owners of the short-lived Bombay Bicycle Club, off 86th & Hickman, to operate within the bar. The venture continued on when the place changed hands and became The Point [see blog post].

After unburdening himself with the niggling demands of the Farmers' Market, Chef Sam sought out a more permanent base, opening up a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the East Village at 621 Des Moines, before settling down for good at 407 E. Fifth. Along the way Tacopocalypse's cuisine has taken on a decidedly Asian/Mexican fusion theme, with a healthy dose of American comfort.

I'm very impressed with the housemade corn tortillas used for the tacos. Sturdy enough to handle moist fillings without falling apart, tender enough to chew easily, yet still retain a mouth-pleasing texture. Among the tacos that I've enjoyed include both Bacon and Vegan Chorizos, the Korean Beef (Bulgogi), and the Seitan Andouille.

The Bacon Chorizo – minced and spiced bacon swimming in its own rendered fat – is quite tender and moist, though its greasiness can be off-putting to some. The soy-based Vegan Chorizo is moist and flavorful with an appealing mouthfeel. The Korean Beef (Bulgogi) comes with an excellent spicy mayo and housemade kimchi, while the Seitan Andouille is vegan done right even down to the creamy aioli. The slaw is the law with all of Tacopacalypse's tacos, whether it be a curtido of pickled white cabbage with Mexican oregano, a spicy pickled red cabbage in a pepper sauce, or a kimchi of pickled Napa cabbage, carrots, green onion, and Korean peppers.

Clockwise from top left: Bacon Chorizo, Vegan Chorizo, Korean Beef (Bulgogi), Murder Death Kill (MDK) salsa, Roja and Tomatillo-Habenero salsa, Seitan Andouille.

For salsas Tacopocalypse offers a tomatoey Roja, a Tomatillo-Habanero, and the Murder Death Kill (MDK). The Roja is mild and approachable for most palates, green-hued Tomatillo-Habanero sports an appealing heat, while the ghost pepper based MDK salsa is spicy enough for merit. Of the three I much prefer the Tomatillo-Habenero. Its the best!

Burritos feature prominently on Tacopocalypse's menu with such builds as Wasabi Brisket, Korean Beef (Bulgogi), Chicken Bacon and Tofu Ranch, I Can't Believe It's Not Breakfast Burrito, Red Curry Chicken and Tofu, Seitan Andouille, and the BOD (Burrito of the Day). One such BOD I enjoyed came with hominy, potato, slaw, and vegan chorizo, topped with a queso blanco and roasted tomatoes. The tomatoes were the clear highlight of this BOD while I found the tortilla to be the weakest ingredient – it dominated the other starches.

The housemade pork breakfast sausage gravy topped I Can't Believe It's Not Breakfast Burrito is an excellent build! The gravy is well above par, the essence of the sausage permeates the sauce. Black pepper – normally employed as a crutch for gravies less flavorful – is quite subtle. The burrito itself is none the less remarkable with moist scrambled egg, savory bacon chorizo, poblano potatoes, and a creamy queso. Other items on Tacopocalypse's house menu include grilled cheeses, banh mi sandwiches, nachos, quesadillas, soups, housemade ice cream, and tortilla chips with salsa, guacamole, or queso.

Brunch has been an important fixture at Tacopocalypse since its stint in Clive. Items on the Brunchpocalypse menu include biscuits and gravy, breakfast burritos, banh mi and nachos, sweet and savory waffles, a Tofu Scramble, and the Breakfast Thing, a Tacopocalypse favorite offered since the Farmers' Market days.

The Breakfast Thing is a grilled Chihuahua cheese quesadilla made with corn tortillas, topped with scrambled egg and your choice of taco filling, such as the one, above left, with vegan chorizo. The quesadilla underneath stood up quite well with melty cheesiness sandwiched between the corn tortillas. Breakfast Nachos are over the top with crispy corn tortilla chips topped with scrambled egg, choice of taco filling, and cheese.

Tacopocalypse's phenomenal success had led Chef Sam to pursue other ventures in the works such as a ramen house at 621 Des Moines in the East Village, and a pizzeria in the River Bend neighborhood.

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