1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… 15, 16, 17, 18… 27, 28, 29, 30… 35, 36, 37… 41, 42, 43, 44… 58, 59, 60… I’m starting to get tired here… 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78. Phew! Wait… Add a couple more.
I stood there with the menu in my hand, wondering if I ran away right now would they notice – I find it hard to leave a place once I’ve sort of committed to it. 78+ food items offered… in a food-truck. I’m still trying to grasp the idea behind multi-cuisine restaurants, but this was something completely different.
Burgers, Sandwiches, Salads, Soups, Starters, Hot Dogs, Pizza, Omelettes, Pasta, “Main course” – which consisted of Paella, Fajitas, a Casserole, Roulade -, Risotto, Specials, Drinks, and finally Desserts; it was endless. I mean it’s a food-truck for crying out loud. I was expecting 15 maybe 20 food options tops with a 60:40 ratio in favour of non-vegetarian dishes – that tends to be the general trend – so this was simply mind-boggling.
I am aware that for some it’s good to have a choice, and normally I’d agree with that, but when it comes to food being served, a number of factors come into play. So much variety means it becomes hard to keep everything fresh and there are a lot of mixed up tastes coming out of the same small kitchen; Spanish, Italian, American, Indian, Mexican which leads to a lot of inconsistencies and just… NO!
But, I’m jumping ahead; Oh Buoy!! is one of the larger food trucks operational in the Delhi NCR region. At present they have three trucks and the one I visited has just started parking in Gurgaon, in the space behind Sector 29. They do build-up a nice atmosphere around the truck, I’ll give them that much; a TV screen playing music and with chairs and tables laid out on the pavement. A big “production” like this also means the connectivity I have often seen between customer and owner of food-trucks is lost somewhere. This is less of a food-truck and more of a mobile restaurant.
Amidst all the lights and glamour – I’m making it sound a lot hipper than it is – the food somehow has taken a backseat. One of the major issues I have is the extensive menu. There is no need for so much to be offered. Any foodie needs only to watch an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares to note that one of his pet peeves is a menu that goes on and on and on. Keeping the menu simple – as it’s being done by most of the other food-trucks – means more attention can be paid to the food.
Take the French Onion Soup which has all the ingredients of becoming exceptional if only the diameter of the bread on top can be reduced a notch (or the size of the serving bowl increased), the spices tweaked a bit – there’s no need to add chili flakes – and the consistency be made less watery, it comes close to being really good – the best French Onion Soup I’ve had was in Leidseplein, Amsterdam – and perfect to be had on a cool winter evening.
Sadly, I don’t have any hope for the Potato Gnocchi which did have moist, almost disintegrating potatoes – as opposed to the hard packed ones often cooked at home – and an acceptable sauce, but then for some reason it comes bombarded with cumin seeds and pepper making the entire dish uneatable.
The trend continued with the Vegetable Laffa Roll which is just another name for a “Falafel Wrap”. Thankfully it wasn’t spicy – just the way I like it – which meant that the chickpea flavour was dominant – as it should be- and various additions – onions, capsicum, and tomatoes – all added to the flavour. However, the “soft flour bread” wasn’t all that soft, the “crunchy chickpea balls” weren’t all that crunchy, and the hummus can do with a lot of work.
Another example of things going amiss in an attempt to please everyone can be seen in the details of their “Quattro Formagi Nachos Chicken” on the menu – “Tortilla chips topped with chicken cubes, beans, cheese, tomatoes and jalapeño served with salsa and sour creme”. I know they do mention cheese in there, but shouldn’t Quattro Formaggi be about Four Cheeses?
Oh Buoy!! Has all the infrastructure to go really big and the size of their truck kitchen is a huge advantage that can help them do great things with the food they are serving. Their quantities are good and the price structure competitive enough for the food-truck business. However, the first step towards the goal of achieving culinary importance can only start with taking a huge red marker and crossing out items from their menu so that it becomes less than half of what it is right now. The food-truck war is at its peak right now – while the demand is there, the supply is at an all time high – and unless you can capture the customer in the initial stages, the chance that they will return is highly improbable.
I’ll end by emphasizing that there’s a lot to be said when a customer who ordered a soup, a “special”, and a regular starter, goes home to have a bowl of cornflakes in order to satisfy his tummy.