This week, we found out what many gourmet food truck owners already know: Food truck chefs are not to be underestimated. Matt Marcus of the Eatsie Boys food truck is the real deal, a CIA-trained chef whose ambitions led him to work for a year at the three-Michelin-starred The Fat Duck, then for another year and a half at the two-Michelin-starred Cyrus.
You'd think, as I did, that he would continue on the path of high-end, Michelin-starred kitchens, but at the heart of it all, the happy-go-lucky, tie-dye-wearing, extraordinarily humble chef, whose phraseology reminds me a bit of the guys from the movie Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, is striving to live the American Dream.
With the Eatsie Boys food truck, 8th Wonder Brewery and plans for a brick-and-mortar cafe in the old Kraftsmen bakery space at 4100 Montrose, Marcus and partners Ryan Soroka and Alex Vassilakidis are not only friends, but entrepreneurs who have a dream and vision of building a successful, food-and-drink-based business in Houston.
Marcus is the driving force behind the food component of their businesses, and this past Monday, as part of the rotating food truck series at Grand Prize Bar, he showed me just a smidge of what he can do. "It's nice to get out of the truck and work in a kitchen," Marcus told me of his menu this past Monday. "In the truck, we are limited in what we can do, so on the days we're at Grand Prize, it's nice to be able to go to the market, buy what I want and then let my mind whip up whatever for the night."
We started with Platinum Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup, toasted brioche with melted cheddar, jalapeño and cream cheese served with classic tomato soup. I'm a total spice wimp, so for me, the jalapeños had a really strong kick, but the cheddar and cream cheese softened the effect, and the flavors were right on. The tomato soup was thick and tangy, seasoned to perfection, without the heavy creaminess that would have weighed down the soup, a good foil for the rich and creamy sandwich.
Next up was the Chicken Yaki Udon, my favorite of the night, Marcus's spin on the traditionally smaller noodled yaki soba. The fatter, chewier, thick white udon was glazed to perfection with a coating of a delectable soy-based sauce, and as I slurped up every single bit of noodle, beech mushroom, long bean and marinated chunks of chicken, I knew that one order would not be enough. "I want another one," I deadpanned when he came around to ask me how I liked it. "I am totally serious," I said, not wanting to seem like a pig when I had a couple of other dishes to try.
A hearty Sure Shot Shrimp Curry and Rice, served with three huge shrimp in a thick, spicy, coconut-based curry that could go up against any Thai curry in Houston, was next on the menu. Served with white rice, the dish had a heat level, spice-wise, that was also high for me, but I could easily appreciate the authenticity of the flavors, the richness of the sauce, the generous portion of shrimp that had been included and the fact that if I weren't such a weak spice-eater, I would have inhaled the dish pretty quickly.
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For dessert, Marcus pulled out one of his toys, namely the liquid nitrogen, to make the "pancake ice cream, ice cream pancake," a dessert made of pancake ice cream that he froze with liquid nitrogen to form a small pancake. Topped with blueberries, ricotta cheese and lemon zest, it was like a blueberry pancake breakfast-turned-dessert -- fun and ingenious, just like the chef.
Matt Marcus is fun, he's ingenious, he's full of energy and enthusiasm and a love for food, and he's banking on Houston to allow him to spread that love. Visit the Eatsie Boys Monday nights at Grand Prize Bar, on their truck, which can be found at Agora (see Web site or Twitter for exact location), and soon at their brick and mortar cafe at 4100 Montrose.