After an unexpectedly long gestation, the Pacific Rim Food Park in the Northeast Heights is up and running.
The collection of food trucks that make up the park sprang from the imagination of Judy Chiang, owner of the nearby Rising Star Chinese Eatery. Troubled by the numerous restaurant closures during the pandemic, Chiang wanted to create a space where fledgling chefs and restaurateurs could combine their talents to make a destination dining spot. The nondenominational evangelical Grace Church provided the lot near the intersection of San Antonio Drive and Louisiana Boulevard.
Delays getting the electricity hooked up pushed the opening from last summer to the end of October, just as the weather was getting cold. The park plugged along through the winter on limited hours; now that the warm weather is here, it’s open six days a week.
Despite the rocky start, an air of optimism pervaded the place when I visited during a recent lunch hour. A server at Dawn Patrol Coffee Shack greeted me as I entered the park and provided a brief guide to the four trucks arrayed around the perimeter. He said there are plans to host up to a dozen trucks eventually.
Chiang and the other organizers have done a credible job transforming the lot into a park-like setting, with benches and tables arranged around a square field of grass. Posts with lights strung up between them ring the field, and the pathways are covered with a carpet of wood chips. An unpaved parking area sits next door. Promotional events like Taco Tuesdays and a recent Dumpling Derby are helping to bring more customers to the space.
Speaking of customers, there were four parties at the place when I arrived, and they had snagged the only tables in the park with umbrellas in them. The rest of the tables baked in the pitiless midday sun. More umbrellas are needed, posthaste.
Despite the name, the food park is not restricted to Asian fare. The La Cocina de Ana features Paraguayan cuisine, including a chicken Milanese sandwich that looked appetizing. A Viet Flavor truck offers pho, rice bowls and bánh mì sandwiches. There’s also a Stackers, the smashburger place launched by Basit Gauba of Tikka Spice fame. Prices hover mostly around $10.
Perhaps informed by the closure earlier this year of Magokoro, the terrific Japanese restaurant on Menaul Boulevard, I had come to Pacific Rim to sample the goods at Mobiyaki ABQ. “Mobi” refers to mobile, and “yaki” translates roughly into “cooked over direct heat.” Mobiyaki’s black-walled trailer stands out against the brightly colored trucks of its neighbors.
The menu is made up of six main dishes ranging in price from $8.95 to $14.95, each one with “yaki” appended to it. Four new items were posted on a sign standing next to the truck, including Katsu Curry and a couple of ramen bowls for $12.95. Each dish is served in a Styrofoam container with a few steamed vegetables, a cup or two of sauce and a piece of Hi-Chew, the fruity candy from Japan that’s like a less-intense version of Starburst.
My meal got off to a great start with the Yakimeshi ($8.95), Japanese fried rice insinuated with chopped bacon and fluffy bits of scrambled eggs. The grains of rice were firm, not mushy, giving the dish a pleasing lightness. It was seasoned well enough that it didn’t need any added sauce, and the bacon added some smokiness. This was certainly among the best fried rice dishes I’ve had in town.
Also praiseworthy was Mobiyaki’s version of the savory Japanese pancake Okonomiyaki ($11.95), made with sliced onions in a light, eggy batter. It looked pretty fearsome spread across the bottom of the Styrofoam container, all caramelized onions and stripes of sriracha/mayo, and had ample amounts heat and umami to match its appearance.
I found myself in more familiar territory with Mobiyaki’s version of Yakitori ($10.95), chicken on skewers over white rice. The chicken was moist and savory from the teriyaki baste, but a couple of pieces were undercooked at the ends.
Taiyaki ($2.95), the lone dessert on the menu, mimics the shape of red sea bream, a fish known as tai in Japanese. It’s made with a sweet batter filled with a choice of lemon, Bavarian cream or cream cheese. I had the latter. The shell tasted like a pancake, only with an airier texture, and the cream cheese balanced the batter’s sweetness. A first-rate dessert.
Given the prevalence of soy sauce in the dishes, I was surprised to find out that four of them are gluten-free. The server told me they use only gluten-free soy sauce. After ordering, you get a buzzer that signals when your food is ready to be picked up at the truck. My order took between five and 10 minutes.
Albuquerque’s thriving food-truck scene has another gem in Mobiyaki ABQ. It’s just one of several reasons to visit Pacific Rim Food Park.