Drifters Cafe

IMG_3978Another day, another food truck, same city; Gurgaon is fast becoming the hotbed for the latest startup trend in the culinary world. Food trucks are everywhere now, on TV, in movies, and of course on the streets. Even though I’m yet to try all the available trucks in town, another one just opened its shutters a week back. Drifters Cafe which parks right next to What the Truck? In Sector 29, Gurgaon serves Asian meals. It’s your Thai Curry with Rice, Kung Pao Noodles and of course Momos along with Spring Rolls, and their signature Corn Cakes.

Just as some of the “original” food-trucks are busy experimenting with signature dishes, Drifters Cafe is a take back at the Indian-Chinese food trucks that many of us grew up on, stationed outside cinemas and busy markets selling Momos and Chowmine. At first thought Drifters has an uphill task in trying to be different and stand apart from such establishments. Add to that the numerous kiosks in malls selling Momos and Drifters has to seriously plan on a menu that will carry them through the distance. On the bright side, in Gurgaon, there is yet to be a good food truck that serves similar food, although how long before that changes is anyone’s guess.

Drifters Cafe has all the signs of the modern day hip food truck; the owners/management out there interacting with the customers and as eager to sell the food as they are about getting feedback. Then there is obviously more detailed attention given to hygiene and food preparations, something that needs to be carried on for any establishment like this to remain successful.

IMG_3910What about the food? In the end, it’s the food and the taste that matters and Drifters Cafe sits rather comfortably in the middle not being exceptional, but at the same time providing wholesome and tasty food. I’m being highly critical, but that’s because the competition is so tough now, and there are various options for customers like me, that a food-truck needs to exceed on all fronts to get noticed. Drifters Café does have the novelty value of being a food-truck, but like in fashion, it’s only a matter of time before the novelty wears out and then it will boil down to the taste that alone will result in repeat customers.

I won’t lie, I love the concept of food-trucks and when an opportunity arises to experience a new one, I’m like a little kid in a candy store. Not having eaten for the entire day, I was able to sample a little more than usual during my first visit at Drifters Cafe.

The Chicken Dimsums turned out to be a great start with a nice meaty filling and the slightly sticky dough shaped nicely and served piping hot. I was very impressed with the dough because usually it is either too thick and chewy or else too thin which leads to it breaking down as soon you pick it up to eat it. I was however slightly disappointed with the filling options they had; the main charm of a good Momo/Dimsum is in its filling and I would expect that a food-truck opening now (when experimentation is at a high all over the food industry) would be more daring with the ingredients. A couple of months back I had one of the best Dimsums at Crystal Jade which incorporated a bit of the gravy/soup inside the Dimsum and while I don’t expect the same from Drifters Café since Crystal Jade is a proper sit down restaurant I do expect that they at least play around a little with the ingredients like say Wanchai by Kylin who serve prawn and water chestnut Momos. The chicken, lamb, vegetarian dimsums are too simple and won’t attract customers in the long run no matter how good they are because these fillings are available everywhere. Still, their chilly and pesto sauce served along with the Momos were both brilliant and I wouldn’t change anything about them.

IMG_3911Moving on to the mains and the Kung Pao Chicken Noodles served in a typical Chinese takeout “cup” were tasty with a hint of sweetness and limited hotness. Moreover the noodles were cooked bordering perfectly between too soft or too chewy. The chefs are thankfully generous with their helpings of the miscellaneous vegetables and the chicken which is a huge plus as no customer ever likes a miser server.

Since I still had space in my ever increasing tummy, I went on an opted for two more of the appetizers available. Here I would mention that Drifters Cafe tries to be a bit “original” by labeling their dishes according to their Asian names; so corn cakes become Thord Khaopad and Spring Rolls are mentioned as Popian (Popiah?) Thord. I’d personally avoid doing this as it forces the customer to ask what these items are and not everyone is always comfortable doing that. A menu should be as simple and clear as possible to understand especially since unlike restaurants food-trucks normally just post their menus on a blackboard.

The hosts were considerate enough to give me three pieces each of the Spring Rolls and the Corn Cakes (normally one plate would include 6 pieces of any of the two) and as a result I got to taste both. The Spring Rolls were fried to a nice crunch filled with fresh looking clean vegetables and served with a tasty sweet and sour sauce to dip the rolls in. The Corn Cakes do have certain uniqueness to them, but they came very close to the frozen corn-puffs that are available in the markets. However there is no doubt about the freshness of these corn cakes and even though they are slightly oily, the outer layer has a nice crunch while the inner filling has a soft texture to it. Again, a bit more experimentation is required and maybe adding something as simple as herbs to the mixture can make the corn cakes a lot more complex and enjoyable.

IMG_3914In terms of cost I’d be a much happier customer should Drifters Cafe either reduce their prices marginally or increase their quantities slightly. They are however in the same ball park as the other food-trucks and thus are somewhat acceptable.

Drifters Cafe is only a week or so old and I’m sure over time they will refine their menu by adding and removing many dishes, but the charm of running a food truck has to be in coming up with food that customers don’t expect to find elsewhere and that’s what lacking at present and should be their main area of concentration for now.

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