We’re on the cusp of exciting times in Vancouver, with the city’s pilot street food project getting underway. Much has been made of the initiatives and potential missteps the city has undertaken in the last few months to graft an altered beast of Portland’s food truck culture onto our streets, turning an impassioned crowd into overnight urban planning experts. What foods would prove popular? What red tape will City Hall put around this? How are we going to mess this one up?

The Gourmet Syndicate are thankfully moving past pure conjecture and putting tangible plans into place, even if they’re putting the cart slightly ahead of the horse. The outfit intends to offer turn-key food trucks to would-be street vendors, offering advice on the various administrative ins-and-outs and designing trucks to spec. Their own food truck, Roaming Dragon, now finds a lonely place at the west end of Richmond’s Summer Night Market, using the summer nights as its own test project so that they can hit the streets running once the city starts handing out the permits (which, from the sounds of it, may take longer than hoped, with only 17 spots available via a lottery system, and, like much of Portland’s ‘pods,’ permits tied to a geographic location rather than allowing vendors to roam freely).

And the initial results are good, albeit a bit lost on the usual Summer Night Market crowd. Pan-Asian may take a bit of explaining to the predominantly Asian crowd, particularly when they’re surrounded by Xinjiang lamb skewers, grilled whole squid and those godforsaken potato swirls, but Roaming Dragon has thankfully wrestled that concept from chain restaurants that have rendered it unholy (props are assumedly due to “food consultant” Don Letendre, recently of Elixir at the Opus hotel).

The braised pork belly sliders with pickled cucumbers are served on mantou, and are easily amongst the best foods that one can consume in Vancouver in a mere two (okay, three) bites. The pork melts away, tender as childhood love, its delicate saltiness nestling with the mantou’s gentle sweetness and rounded out with the slight acidity of the cucumbers. If one needs a reason to fight through the face-to-skewer-stick crowd of the market, this is it.

The other offerings hit levels nearly as high. Tacos are filled with Korean kalbi shortribs, carrots, shitakes and sesame sautéed spinach, served in corn tortillas lined with nori, and drizzled with not-quite-enough kimchi sauce. A shredded duck confit salad is tossed with watercress, mint, cilantro, and bok choy, with a soy-lemon dressing and pineapple to add acidity, and topped up with watermelon and cashews. The fried rice balls riff on Chinese sticky rice, with Chinese sausage and dried shrimp mixed into an orb of rice, breaded and deep-fried, though the arborio rice renders it a bit too mushy relative to a glutinous rice. The chicken karaage are lightly battered and perfectly crispy, and better executed than in many of the Japanese places in town. (All items are $6, but one can have two for $10 or three for $15).

All of the dishes make perfect sense, particularly given Vancouver’s familiarity with the Asian theme, and one can imagine the popularity that Roaming Dragon will have once they find their way to the streets. Cross your fingers and pray that Roaming Dragon will luck out in the permit lottery, and find your way to them at the Summer Night Market in the interim. It might take awhile for the City’s overall project to become a success, but in the meantime, there’s at least one tangible benefit that’s resulted.


Roaming Dragon
Temporarily at the Summer Night Market in Richmond
12631 Vulcan Way
Richmond, BC
(7pm to 1am Fridays and Saturdays; 7pm to midnight Sundays)


J-Free said... @ June 25, 2010 at 10:57 AM

$6 each? or do you get 2 (tacos or sliders) for the $6?

Joe said... @ June 25, 2010 at 1:26 PM

J-Free: that's $6 for each order. Each order of sliders or tacos comes with 2 sliders/2 tacos, ie $6 for 2 sliders or 2 tacos. Or $10 for all of it. (Hope that didn't confuse things further)

lyndsay said... @ June 26, 2010 at 11:45 PM

great post... so excited also for the potential of vancouver's food truck scene...

also, can't wait to hit roaming dragon... :)

Scott said... @ July 4, 2010 at 9:58 AM

This is a Kogi BBQ rip off from LA

alex said... @ July 4, 2010 at 10:18 AM

waaay overpriced! each item should be $2-3, not the $6 each or 2 for $10. i don't see them as a lasting venture with these prices...

Scott said... @ July 4, 2010 at 12:58 PM

That's the worst part - Kogi has it down - charge a nominal price ($2-3) per taco, people stand in line literally for 2+ hours and end up spending a minimum of $20 b/c they are so hungry AND b/c they feel they are getting a good deal.

Dan said... @ July 4, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Finally tried The Roaming Dragon when they were downtown yesterday...
was curious because there is so much buzz...
and was totally impressed!
Everything we ate was amazing and good value...
have to admit, the sliders were my fave!

Joe said... @ July 5, 2010 at 10:40 AM

Scott, Alex - I take your point that the tacos are overtly similar to the Kogi tacos.

On the price point, if you factor in (i) the higher amount of administrative fees, etc associated with dealing with the permitting process (reflective of the fact that, unlike Kogi in LA, Roaming Dragon will basically be limited in locations, even when the city's street food project moves forward) and the heightened overhead involved, and (ii) the airfare to Cali, reflective of the sheer lack of anything else comparable in the GVRD, then I think you're coming out slightly ahead. Plus no line ups.

VanGrub said... @ July 5, 2010 at 12:05 PM

Scott & Alex: Went there yesterday. 2 Tacos =$6 (not 6 each!), same with the sliders. Also, they have any two items for $10 or 3 for $15...good value.

VanGrub said... @ July 5, 2010 at 12:07 PM

2 tacos are $6, not six bucks each. Went there yesterday, food was great. Even better, they have two items for $10...great value, awesome grub.

Joe said... @ July 5, 2010 at 12:54 PM

Thanks VanGrub. I thought I had clarified that in my previous reply(2nd from the top, in response to J-Free's question), but I guess not.

Anonymous said... @ July 12, 2010 at 3:07 PM

sounds yummy to me---I'm looking forward to our upcoming trip to Vancouver.

Anonymous said... @ July 13, 2010 at 9:39 PM

i went to the Night market this past sunday looking for the Roaming Dragon... for some reason, either I completely missed them or they weren't there. I really wanted to try those tacos.

Joe said... @ July 17, 2010 at 11:21 AM

You'll have to follow them via Twitter (@dragontruck) to see where they are for the night in question. It seems they're skipping the Night Market every now and then to prep for appearances at various farmer's markets or other outdoor events.

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