One of my first experiences with Korean-style tacos in Vancouver was with the defunct Ursa Korean BBQ food truck. Let's just say that it wasn't particularly memorable. This was a perfect example of con-fusion where they tried to merge 2 separate cuisines into one without any thought put into it. By merely stuffing Korean-style meats into a un-heated store-bought hard corn tortilla shell cannot be considered remotely tasty. However, the newly opened TAKO (TAqueria KOreano) across from Rogers Arena seems to have much more promise. I was invited to a tasting organized by Sharon, where I hoped that my bad memories would be erased.
Getting right to it, we were able to sample their 5 types of Tacos including the (Grilled Beef), Jeju (Spicy Pork Belly), Gangnam (BBQ Short Rib), Seoul (Deep Fried Chicken) and Busan (Fried Prawn). Due to the fact there was too much food (#foodblogger problems), I only sampled the last 3, however, I had the grilled beef and spicy pork in other items during the tasting as well. I really enjoyed the Seoul Taco the most as the succulent nuggets of chicken were tender and juicy while coated with a light crispy batter. I thought the sweet gochujang helped emulate the KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) experience quite well. I personally could've used less sauce though. I also liked the Busan as the prawn was buttery and the tempura batter was on point being crispy and light. The creamy spicy mayo offered up familiar flavours (ebi mayo) and the sliced cucumber added more crunch and a certain brightness. I liked the sweet caramelized flavours of the short rib, but the texture was a bit too dry for me.
We also tried their Quesadillas that were available in 2 ways. The Kimchi consisted of pan-fried kimchi, bulgogi, corn, red onion and cheese. Yup, you read it right, there was melted cheese (like a regular quesadilla) AND Korean ingredients. For me, it worked because the cheese was barely noticeable except for the melty texture. The dominant flavours were from the tangy and spicy kimchi and the sweet beef. The quesadilla was nicely seared where it was crispy and remained dry despite the wet ingredients. Consisting of Bulgogi, mushroom, cheese and red onion, the Omma was cheesier in taste due to the absence of kimchi. I found the mushroom to be a background addition due to the mildness of flavour and texture. The red onion was more prominent with a sweet sharpness as well.
Onto something more familiar, we sampled their 3 types of Bibimbap made with either Bulgogi, Spicy Pork or BBQ Short Rib. These consisted of chewy rice topped with shiitake, carrots, zucchini, meat and an ajitama egg (the fusion part). I went for the spicy pork and that was a good choice in my opinion as it had and extra layer of spice. Combined with the sweet gochujang, I found the heat level to be quite appetizing. The veggies were on point being soft while maintaining some texture whereas the soft yolk egg was tasty on its own. At first, I wasn't intending on finishing the half-burrito I was sampling, but it was so good, I finished it. I ended up with the Bulgogi Burrito (as this was the only meat I hadn't tried yet) and it featured chewy flavourful kimchi fried rice, corn, cheese and sweet beef. This was very much like eating a beef kimchi fried rice with the sweet pop of corn and interesting taste of cheese in a burrito.
My absolute favourite item of the tasting was the side of Seoul Chicken slathered in gochujang. As mentioned, the chicken in my taco was juicy and tender with a crispy exterior. The sweet gochujang made the dish tasty without being overly spicy. It rested on a bed of their house-made corn chips which were crunchy and delicious. The only thing I would ask for is to customize the amount of sauce as it was a bit too much. However, I had no problem with the amount of sauce for the Koreano Poutine featuring crispy fries, bulgogi, pan-fried kimchi, sour cream, cheese, guacamole and spicy mayo. It ate like a dirty poutine with hits of creaminess, cheesiness, spicy, tang and sweetness. Lots going on, very messy and heavy, but tasty nonetheless. That was essentially the theme of this tasting as everything was flavourful and impactful. However, that also meant most things were fairly saucy and personally I would ask for less or on the side.
*All food and beverages were complimentary*
- No absence of impactful flavours
- Surprising variety
- Sometimes too saucy
- A few repetitive flavours