Our weekly bite explores the city's food trucks, one at a time, highlighting our favorite mobile dishes and snacks.
The Truck: Hapa Ramen and Wise Sons Deli
The Cuisine: Food Truck Mash-up
Specialty Items: Seasonally influenced ramen (Hapa Ramen) and Jewish deli classics (Wise Sons Deli)
Worth the Wait in Line? At peak lunch time, a total 27 minutes from the end of the line to food in hand.
There is something oddly alluring about combining two different dishes into one. Before you roll your eyes too far back, hear me out. What about the turducken? The churpumple? Whether it's simply a mad dream to find a combination that multiplies the flavors into an outrageously delicious combo (without going too far into Flavortown), or because I simply spend too much time thinking about food, I had a plan.
One day while waiting my food at the Hapa Ramen stand, I looked over at their neighbor, Wise Sons and wondered, "Why aren't they doing a crossover dish that combines ramen noodles with fresh pastrami?" Intrigued by the idea, I set off to create my own dish that combined the power of both and I would call it the Wise Bowl.
This is not an easy undertaking and this pursuit will strain your patience, health, and wallet. I waited in the longest line first, ordered the Miso Ramen with egg at Hapa ($10), then jumped into the next one and ordered a pastrami sandwich with no bread at Wise Sons ($10) since they won't just sell you the meat. After a combined $20 and 30 minutes of waiting I was finally able to assemble my unholy creation.
I opened the ramen bowl top and gave it the sweet breath of life with layer after smoky layer of rosy beef that gently relaxed into a hot springs broth. I looked down at my creation with pride and thought, "This is what Thomas Keller must feel like."
Like Victor Frankenstein, as my creature came to life I was immediately repulsed (OK, maybe not appalled, just not impressed). The soup was good, and the beef added a slight bonito-like smokiness that was pleasant, but it was clear that the salt levels in both of these dishes are not calibrated to be combined. It was almost painful to eat, but I kept at it, determined to not have wasted all that time in line and money. Honestly, I would have enjoyed the sandwich and soup separately a lot more. Like twice as much.
As I adjusted to the salinity, I enjoyed it a little more, but resolved that this would have been a much better dish if it had been designed as one from the start. The broth never got the depth of one long-simmered with meat, and the pastrami's tenderness was really more suited for bread than soup. It was a lesson learned that some things are really best left to professionals, the cooks the making and me the eating.