A tale of two food ethnicities

Tako Korean BBQ

Tako Korean BBQ

3030 T St.
Sacramento, CA

(916) 346-4933

Fusion food is the Dickensian character of the food world—either overcoming great adversity and skepticism in order to achieve the rightful reward it deserves, or succumbing to fate and suffering a rather tragic end.

Ultimately, its fate exists in the hands of the author. Or, in the case of food, the chef. Fusion food depends on expert characterization as well as a hefty dose of believability for it to thrive with an increasingly persnickety and foodwise market.

Tako Korean BBQ is such a character: a fusion food of Mexican culinary practice and Korean ingredients. It’s a unique trans-Pacific blend that first found popularity via Korean taco trucks in Los Angeles and New York City, and has since slowly expanded into other major metropolitan centers.

Yoon Hee Cho and Alex Wan, two barbeque enthusiasts who decided to take a chance by converting an old gas station into a nifty little joint straddling Midtown and East Sac, opened Tako in 2012. (A second location is set to open in downtown Davis later this year, according to a recent post on the restaurant’s Facebook page.) The service here is friendly and the parking a bitch, but the space itself exudes a ruddy charm.

Ordering is done in a Chipotle-like fashion: pick the dish and pick the meat or vegetable filling. It’s a smart way to give variety to a limited number of menu options.

Tacos filled with galbi, a Korean-style marinated short rib, are sweet and salty. The tacos are served with shredded slaw, and an indigo blueberry-yogurt sauce that at first seems rather out of place. However, the sauce provides a light fruitiness that compliments the galbi well (and, in fact, contrasts well against most of the food served here).

Bulgogi sliders are the true hit of the menu. These are Korean-marinated steak stuffed into light bread, served with cabbage, cheese and a tangy house sauce, and my only complaint is that the cheese isn’t melted—such a touch would give the dish a bit more oomph.

The dae ji bulgogi, a spicy marinated steak, frankly isn’t all that spicy, assuming lava runs through your veins. For the chili layman, have it served in a burrito where the rice and tortilla will mitigate the pain. The spicy marinated chicken (buldak) is just as mild but tasty nonetheless.

Oksusu is traditionally a Korean corn-based tisane, but at Tako it’s served as a sweet medley of corn, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper and chunks of sticky mango bound together with sesame oil. It’s rather lovely and works well in many of the dishes aside from the nachos, since nachos really do just need hot ingredients and not a cold salad. The only complaint about the oksusu itself? Everyone at the table felt that grilling or charring the corn beforehand would give it a nice boost of flavor. (A quick firebomb of Sriracha sauce doesn’t hurt, either.)

The kimchi is disappointing. The paltry pickled cabbage contains none of the offensive funk, obstinate sourness or spicy punch that’s so characteristic of traditional kimchi. Some may be grateful for this, but many avid fans of Korean cuisine will just be irritated. When tucked into the kimchi quesadilla and slathered with sour cream and blueberry-yogurt sauce, this Korean staple completely vanishes between the dairy, dairy and more dairy.

Portions are large and extremely affordable, making this a prime lunch-spot destination. The food overall is pleasant, and will likely find a few diehard fans as well as plenty of midday regulars.

Tako achieves what fusion food attempts to do, though there’s plenty of room for improvement and growth. It’s what all fusion food must do. Push boundaries. Experiment. Learn from failures. Exceed past successes. Tako seems well on the way in all of this.