June 25, 2016
As the name might suggest, everything at Raw Goods is prepared raw. Featuring proteins with fins and gills for entrees, the menu also encourages fruit and vegetable exploration through the makings of raw smoothies and bowls; examples being health-driven foods as buckwheat, avocado and and spiraling. For a caffeine kick, honey brined coffee is also available for purchase.
On a Sunday afternoon in mid-June, Aztec Food Trailer park on Cesar Chavez on Austin's east side played host to a steady crowd out to celebrate the commencement of summer vacation with the traditional party favors of ice cream and beer floats. Sprawling picnic tables along its gravel lot were occupied primarily by large groups, with the exception of a few families and couples out for a date. Among the trailers feeding the troops were La BBQ, Dee Dee, Super Burrito, and Raw Goods. The latter, with its wildly vibrant spray paint job that is nostalgic to a Fruit Stripe gum package (I kept thinking zebras), is the subject of this review.
When I peered in through the truck's tiny window I found the space to be devoid of human activity, with only the subtle movement of hanging knives and tree fruit strung in nets along the back wall. Moments later, a man walked by me on his way into the truck and asked for my order.
"The Tuna ($12)," I said, to which he retorted, "Tuna. Classic."
Taking a seat near the trailer, out of the heat and under the shade of a towering oak tree which filled the center of the picnic table like a candle wick, I took to study the details of the trailer and its surroundings. Appearing messy from afar, the squiggly splatters of spray paint took on a more calculated arrangement to pattern the truck in a warm, tropical way. To the same effect as the netted produce inside, a pair of elevated planting beds at the wheel base gave home to herbs like mint and basil, paying homage to using what is on hand. All the while the steady chopping of a knife gave rhythm like the sea, with the only cause for interruption coming from the drifting scents of spilled beer, smoked meat and Thai spices.
Moments later my chef called out tuna with my name on it, handing over a paper boat of leafy greens and a small cardboard ramekin filled with sliced pears which were dressed with purple flowers and an effervescent foam. With passionate ease he rattled off specs of the dish, identifying the type of tuna as Saku from Japan and detailed ingredients to the pear blossom; the foam being concocted from coconut fat and dehydrated vegetables.
"If the tuna gets too hot, tone it down with the blossom," he suggested. As the foam began to dissipate from the outside temperature, I ultimately dumped the contents into the bed of greens to preserve its integrity and enjoyed the ingredients as one.
By selecting rainbow chard as the base, the fillings (a generous layering of alfalfa sprouts and tuna), were well supported and received a textural contrast. The first bite started with a snap while the make-shift taco gradually delivered an array of precise flavors; slow heat from hidden ginger and habanero pepper, true yet not overbearing tuna flavors which carried an almost creamy consistency, and even hints of violet and fresh mint from the blossom. Remaining consistent throughout, the dish delivered the sort of fresh, tropical attitude set by the truck's aesthetics.
To replicate the experience of a true taco by utilizing only plants and fish is a feat in itself. Delivering such a product without flaw or reasonable argument on the price, much less, makes this truck worth revisiting. Perhaps including other raw vegetables like bell pepper, chives, or tomatoes could enhance the dish from a variety standpoint, but otherwise the execution, presentation and mood set at Raw Goods is laudable.
1906 E Cesar Chavez St., Austin, TX 78702
Rating: 4 Fins (Out of Five)