Escabeche rolls along authentically
Escabeche Bistro Food Truck (at Surf Brewery)
By JR Grant 03/06/2014
Escabeche Bistro Food Truck
(at Surf Brewery)
4561 Market St.
Although Edgar Munoz enjoyed his family’s Mexican cuisine while growing up in Southern California, he initially decided that a business management degree from Pepperdine would lead him to his career path. His love of the home-style food of his youth, however, convinced him to enroll at the Cordon Bleu, and then, after apprenticing with Chef Jesus Casaval at the noted restaurant Edith’s in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Edgar knew he wanted to bring creative, fresh and unique food creations to Ventura County.
His rolling restaurant, Escabeche Bistro, is one of the most popular gourmet food trucks in the area and currently serves Munoz’s creations Wednesday through Sunday parked outside Surf Brewery in Ventura. I first encountered the food truck at a gourmet event in Oxnard in the summer of 2012. Even today I remember my first bite of the shrimp chile relleno: a fresh, fire-roasted Anaheim chile stuffed with queso fresco and garlic-grilled shrimp, dipped in a special chipotle-infused batter and coated with chile-seasoned bread crumbs, and then topped with a light aiolilike white cream sauce. The taste was pure heaven and my opinion about food trucks was changed forever from that moment.
At his current location in front of Surf Brewery, Chef Munoz is still creating amazing daily specials, and I’ve yet to sample anything from his regular menu that has not “wow-ed” me. Part of the reason for Munoz’s excellent food is his use of fresh, natural (and local if possible) ingredients, and he makes all dishes by hand. No packaged corn tortilla chips here; the chips are fried daily on site and have a unique crispness and flavor. So too do the tamales, which he makes using his own masa blend, as well doing his own corn tortillas, made from the masa fused with a chilaquil paste. Salsas, of course, are made with local tomatoes, chiles, onions and tomatillos.
A very popular item on the menu is the sope: small, round, flavored masa cake topped with your choice of ingredients such as beans, meat or protein of choice, peppers or whatever veggies may be available. If Munoz has it in the truck, he’ll make it to your specifications. This is certainly not your usual take-away Mexican fast food. Yes, he’ll prepare you a carne asada soft “street taco.” But the corn tortilla is homemade and the beef will have been marinated with a special seasoning paste and grilled when you ordered it. The same for the tacos al pastor, pork with a special adobo sauce and seasoning paste.
Another favorite of mine is the chicken mole tamale. I’ve already mentioned the care and attention Munoz spends on his masa; the mole is a bitter yet sweet chocolate-based chile spice, which, combined with the flavorful masa and then steamed in a corn husk, is a step above most tamales one encounters in Mexican restaurants. A friend of mine raves about the sweet pineapple tamale. I’m not overly fond of sweet tamales but for those whose palates are so inclined, this is a terrific option.
Munoz is a personable, available sort of chef/host/server. If I have any major complaint, it is that when he gets slammed busy, your order can take a while to be delivered out to the table inside the brewery. But the flavor, texture and care with which the meal has been prepared all make the occasional wait most worthwhile. The other evening his special was a tuna tartare ceviche. The sharp piquancy of the chiles with the smooth, firm chopped tuna flavor was an excellent topping for a sope.
Munoz is on a quest to find an ideal location to expand his menu and have a “sit-down” restaurant from which his food truck could operate both as a catering service and moving marketing device. I almost didn’t make deadline for this article as Munoz was waiting to see if a location he was considering had become available. Alas, it did not open up, but in the meantime the parked food truck in front of Surf Brewery is where I now always send friends who ask me where they can find some of the best Mexican food in Ventura County.