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Review: Mandoline Grill Launch Party

On Saturday, February 6, from 3 PM to 8 PM, Mandoline Grill held its truck launch party at Verdugo Bar in Glassell Park. By the time I got there, the line was relatively short, but there was a sizable crowd waiting for food. That crowd only got bigger as the night wore on: by 6:30 PM, the average wait time was around an hour. This, I've heard, is somewhat common with new food trucks - it takes a few days, weeks or even months to iron out the kinks in service. From what I could observe, it looked as if all the food was being made to order, which could explain why it took so long. Some folks were not happy: one memorable comment I overheard was "I could grow my food more quickly than this!" Low blood sugar meant the rest of the crowd was somewhat subdued.


The food was almost worth the wait. My crew (just a normal-type crew, not a dance crew, sadly) and I ordered three different banh mi: ca ri ga (Vietnamese chicken curry), beef, and lemongrass tofu ($6 each). I also got an order of cha gio, a.k.a. tofu spring rolls ($4). Unfortunately, they were all out of bun.

My husband asked for the beef banh mi sans mayo, but when he received the sandwich, there was his condimental nemesis, staring him mockingly in the face. The mayo was particularly heavy, and coated the roof of my mouth long after I'd finished my sandwich. The beef was tangy and thin-sliced, but with a few large chunks of gristle. The tofu was cut thicker than they do it at Phamish, and the larger pieces were not quite as flavorful. (Less surface area for marinade, I guess.)

Tofu banh mi

My favorite was the chicken curry: shredded fowl in a creamy sauce that tasted as if it contained coconut milk, even though the server swore to my coconut-hating husband that it did not. I love coconut, so I was happy with whatever ingredient was imparting that flavor. One of my other dining companions remarked that the baguettes seemed a bit underbaked. My curry banh mi did collapse halfway through my eating it; perhaps a crustier baguette would have held up better.

Serving up an order

The cha gio were vegan and delicious. Even my 21-month-old son Owen, who doesn't really seem to like food in general, was into them. When I asked him for a bite, he clutched his egg roll possessively and said "Owen." A ringing endorsement. I'd definitely get the cha gio again, along with the chicken curry banh mi.

Tofu cha gio egg rolls

I have to say that Phamish is still my overall favorite of the banh mi trucks, and I'd choose a Nom Nom lemongrass chicken sandwich over Mandoline's ca ri ga. I did like Mandoline's food, though; the banh mi fixings - carrots, daikon, cilantro, cucumber and jalapenos - were fresh, crunchy and plentiful. The chefs and servers stayed sweet under pressure, which is an admirable feat at a truck launch. I'll definitely be hitting up Mandoline Grill again when I see the truck around town.

Vegetarian-friendly? Most definitely. Four out of 10 menu items are vegan. I highly recommend the cha gio.

Vegan-friendly? Yep - see above.


Mandoline Grill Launch Party on 2/6

I'm already having trouble deciding whether I like Phamish's or Nom Nom's banh mi best: now it looks as if another contender will join the battle of the mobile baguette sandwiches. Mandoline Grill is a brand new truck that specializes in Vietnamese classics like banh mi and bun (vermicelli noodle bowls), and has several vegan menu items, such as cha gio (crispy spring rolls). Mandoline Grill is having a launch party at Verdugo Bar in Glassell Park this Saturday, February 6, from 1 PM to 8 PM. There'll be an open bar, DJs, giveaways and, of course, food.