(Mural inside the Flying Pig Café)
The boyfriend and I are very different when it comes to travelling. I prefer to plan almost nothing except for hotels and enjoy discovering restaurants, truck stops and attractions as we go. While the boyfriend prefers to have plans in place – restaurants reserved, bicycle trips scheduled, attractions researched and any suggestion of going off the colour coded spreadsheet is met with a deep sigh. There are merits to both systems – you can find some amazing attractions if you’re willing to explore but you’ll be left without a place for dinner if you haven’t planned anything when you drive into town late at night. So of course I had nothing planned for lunch on our last day in Los Angeles. Rummaging for ideas I flipped through one of those hotel travel magazines and saw a glossy picture of an Asian inspired taco. Seduced by it, I read the attached article and decided we had to go the Flying Pig Café.
The Flying Pig Café is an extension of Chef Joe Kim’s Flying Pig Truck made famous on the Food Network and Oprah. The truck features sliders, pork belly on bao bun and a variety of mouth watering tacos. The café features truck favourites in addition to creative takes on traditional Asian dishes like duck fried rice or umi pasta and even spins on American favourites like duck confit macaroni. Items are priced inexpensively, between $7-15 for dinner and anywhere from $3 for a single taco to $8 for a lunch combination plate. This is a place where you want to try two or three items and it’s priced accordingly.
Excited about the menu the boyfriend and I stepped into the fresh, new restaurant and waited in line to place our order. It was noticeable by the stress in our server's voice and the sharp directions given to the kitchen staff that the café was new and experiencing growing pains. Orders were taking too long to be placed and food was taking too long to be prepared. Despite the warning signs we placed an order anyway. The boyfriend chose combo #1 – a pork belly bun, Flying Pig mini patty and taco while I ordered the combo #2 – chef’s salad and duck fried rice. We sat down at one of the modern styled tables and waited.
Seated beside us were two customers who had been waiting a while for their food. They were complaining loudly about how they wasted their lunch break. Eventually they got their money back and left out of frustration. Our food didn’t take that long to arrive but seemed scattered. We were both served salads but only I had ordered it. The table next to us also received salads but they arrived after their mains were eaten. It was like the salad of mixed greens with vinaigrette was a bribe to keep us calm before we too walked out. Our mains arrived shortly but without the bottle of water we had ordered. The boyfriend asked twice but had to go to the counter to get it and returned with a single glass not a bottle. With our glass of water to share we dug into our mains. I expected the duck fried rice to be luscious and moist, bursting with flavour but both the rice and duck were dry and the flavour forgetful. The boyfriend fared better with his combination dish; the pork belly bun with red onion escabeche and Flying Pig sauce and the Flying Pig mini patty with even more red onion escabeche with wonderful banana mustard were both delicious. It took a lot of self restraint not to steal the taco from his plate.
(Hurray, Yogurt Land saves the day!)
Although part of the lunch was good the combination of the poor service, dry rice and unpleasant customer atmosphere made for a lacklustre lunch. The menu sounds wonderful and perhaps as it was a few days prior to the grand opening it was too ambitious to be serving it – I don’t know. My one tip to anyone unsatisfied with the Flying Pig Café is to go directly to Yogurt Land across the street and make the biggest frozen yogurt creation you can. It saved my lunch.