Location varies; check their Twitter feed or website for the latest updates.
Cooking Method: Griddled
Want Fries with That? Shrimp chips are all that's on offer, and while pretty and pastel-colored they aren't anything special.
Price: Torakku Beef Burger, $5
What exactly is it that makes food from a truck so appealing? The value of this not-so-recent, yet decidedly persistent proliferation of food trucks (or, perhaps better termed, "food truck culture") has been a source of much contention between my friends and me. I have yet to be convinced of the value of these new mobile eateries beyond their original purpose: getting food to hungry folks without any convenient, local, and affordable options.
Of course, the recent trend is trying to be much more than simple convenience. The nouveau Los Angeles food trucks have become light bulbs to the moths that make up our local foodie scene. It's as if, by dint of its inherent inaccessibility, this new wave of food truckery has turned scarcity into demand. From my vantage, it seems like an exercise in a collective, cognitive dissonance. Customers line up for an hour to try a Kogi taco only to find it a mediocre exercise in fusion cuisine. Rationalization kicks in and the calculus becomes, "I wouldn't go through so much trouble to track down food that's just okay, so it must have been awesome."
While I too love devising elaborate schemes to feed myself yummy food, I'm okay with the fact that a lot of them turn out to be long roads to ordinary meals. I love a gastronomic adventure, but just because something is hard to find doesn't mean I have to like it.
Of course, the age of Twitter has meant that the tech-savvy food trucker is (usually) easy to track down. Thus, when someone encouraged me to try the fusion burgers of Marked5, I put aside my prejudice and checked their feed.
It seems fives were wild when coming up with this particular food truck conceit. According to their website there are five folks behind the truck, five senses they want you to open up, five fingers to hold your burger, and five dollars they want you to spend on it. They claimed that their hope was to marry gourmet and street sensibilities and create an innovative meal that we'd fall in love with. Seems a lofty goal for a mere five bones, but stranger burgers have happened.
The Torraku Beef burger, like all of the offerings at Marked5, is a fusion of Japanese and new American flavors. The meager patty is said to be 100% Angus and marinated in a "secret" Torraku sauce. It comes with some romaine lettuce and sandwiched on a rice bun. This last addition is certainly the defining characteristic of the Marked5 burger. It's meant to be the pressed, sticky, rice vessel that you'll find at lots of Japanese eateries (even the fast food ones). When made correctly, it's an interesting blend of the sticky starchiness of the rice and slight crunch from the crust that forms from its grilling. Unfortunately, proper execution seems to elude Marked5 on most counts.
The patty was an overcooked, gray disaster whose juiciness seemed to be replaced by sliminess. The Torakku sauce has the sweet hit of a teriyaki with an added tang that is a distraction. It's a secret they can keep. The romaine was fine, but the addition of tomato was a surprise (there was no mention of it on the menu) and wholly out of place. The red onion was a life raft of flavor, but there wasn't enough to save this burger drowned in sauce.
The rice bun was perhaps, one of the worst I've encountered. It barely held together, making the consumption of this burger an impossibility with just five fingers. Even two handing the thing was ridiculous. A lack of stick in the rice combined with almost no crust meant the burger came apart as I ate it. Sadly, this isn't AHT's first encounter with a rice bun failure; Robyn's trip to Korea delivered much deliciousness, but her rice bun experience was similarly disappointing.
I tried the Katsu Pork burger and found all the same problems as in the beef burger, except this time it was a wan slice of fried pork that was the centerpiece. It was an added disappointment as tonkatsu was one of the dishes I fell in love with during my stint in Japan a number of years back. I also sampled the shrimp chips and found them passable. The Calpico soda, another regular from my Japanese past, was tart, milky, and weird just as I'd remembered it.
Alas, my suspicions of these of-the-moment food trucks were confirmed on this occasion. There are a lot of street foods that are sublime experiences, but most of those are time-tested enterprises. Despite my prejudices, I wanted the Marked5 burger to work. I liked the idea of a fusion burger and certainly I never do anything but root for my burgers to be great.
To be honest, even I empathize with the desire to serve food from a truck. There was once a time when my favorite place to go was a food truck owned by our family friend Booker. He would let me pretend the truck was all mine. It seemed like a magical proposition; driving around, making friends, and feeding them. I imagine I never really thought much about how the food would taste.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.