Umami Moto
 Cleveland, Ohio           Date of Visit: 08/24/11    

I have been getting tweets (Geez, that still gives me the creeps to admit) from something called Walnut Wednesdays for a few weeks now. While I am loath to admit it when it comes to rolling food sources Twitter has been a boon. To be completely transparent the remarks from a number of comedians keep me chuckling through earthquakes both terrestrial and otherwise. But back to the food trucks…a group called the Downtown Cleveland Alliance has organized this weekly gnoshfest by inviting a number of trucks to converge in the same locations. Sort of like the 70’s movie Convoy, except in this version the trucks conflagrate to deliver lunch instead of vengeance. We haven’t had a chance to get out much as of late and here was opportunity to try loads of places at once. Let’s see how we do. Well, back surgery and all we made it to Cleveland without incident and turn on to Rockwell Street instead of Walnut since the usual spot and name sake is closed for the filming of the film Avengers.


Burger Was Best Option but Wouldn't Return, Even for It

The line looks promising, eight brightly colored trucks, all bellowing smoke with notes of protein and veg into the air. Does Cleveland have a temporary but weekly Utopiaesqe food nexus? Well yes and no. While some of the menus show great promise, most are slightly upscale drive thru food. Two trucks do capture our notice…Hodge Podge and Umami Moto.

Umami Moto is a truck that is working to be in the running against however many trucks there might be for the next season of the Race on the Food Network. If the comparison between Hodge Podge next door or its sister truck Dim and Dem Sum or even the Korean BBQ truck in Durham, Umami Moto would be better served working on their cuisine than trying to find their way to a competition. You can’t be successful at the second without the first. And Umami Moto was simply much less successful than our other food truck experiences.

  We tried the Banh Mi (something I had been wanting to try for some time), the umami burger, the Vietnamese chicken curry, and the triple chocolate brownie which I think is concocted by another truck that wasn’t there today, Cakes Plus/Traveling Treats. The brownie was far and away the best the Umami Moto had to offer and it didn’t come from them. Bummer.

There were two fundamental errors with Umami Moto. One apparent in the burger and the other in the Vietnamese sandwich and curry. First, though, an underlying note…the truck promises world cuisine, apparently today the whole world consists of Viet Nam. It could be true that the cuisine changes on a regular basis and focuses on a particular locale, but today “the world” consists of a single cuisine. Back to the errors in the food itself.

Most Excited for This and It Looks Great!

Couldn't Keep the Promise from the Look, Not Even Close
  The burger patty had a nice savory mix to the spice profile but nothing else about it, including the paper thin smear of mayo, the unfortunately weak Vietnamese chili sauce and onions failed to improve the sandwich. The other two dishes (and this about killed me) were piles of disparate ingredients that never came together to create a sensible dish. The pork on the Banh Mi had a confusing mush of flavor that didn’t even mesh with the bread let alone the pickled veggies and Daikon radish. I had wanted to try these Vietnamese street staples for a while and I hope this is not indicative of the sandwich overall. It’s possible I don’t completely understand Vietnamese food, but it seems that it should all work together and I am holding out hope that this was just an unfortunate example. The curry had the same problem with just a mess of flavors that didn’t make any sense to me. I am looking forward to trying some other examples…then I will either be eating what makes Vietnamese food awesome or if it all tastes like this, a big plate of crow.

Desperate Curry

Where Was the Truck That Made This?




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