The team behind The Peached Tortilla Asian-fusion food truck is willingly putting itself through a culinary gauntlet. After four years of being confined to four wheels, chef and owner Eric Silverstein is opening a brick-and-mortar outpost. But before those doors open on Burnet Road, he’s conducting a series of four-course pop-up dinners across the city where he tests menu items — preparing all ingredients from the tight space of a mobile kitchen.
Not an easy task when considering that the dinners attract nearly 100 guests at a time in atypical (i.e., without a proper kitchen) locations like Stonehouse Villa, Argus Cidery and, most recently, Loot Vintage’s rental warehouse in East Austin. But to Silverstein, the challenges only make him stronger.
The pop-up menus reassure fans that Tokyo-born Silverstein does not plan to stray from the Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian flavors that influence his cuisine.
“For this past pop-up at Loot, we had to cook off both trucks just to be able to get food out for 70 people at once. Throw in running food back and forth from the truck to the expo station and it gets hectic. We were also plating outside, so the temp of our food was dropping very fast. A typical kitchen might be 80-plus degrees and it was in the mid-60s that night.”
Even so, the meal went off without a hitch. But if it hadn't, Silverstein says he uses the pop-up format to get real and honest feedback from diners so he can perfect a crowd-pleasing menu by the time The Peached Tortilla restaurant opens.
For the pop-up at Loot, he opened with Koren “hot” chicken and Japanese pickles, followed by an Asian pear and kimchee salad that everyone devoured, a shockingly (considering the crowd and circumstances) tender, sweet and warm misoyaki catfish bowl, and a light meringue pavlova with cherry compote for dessert.
As a whole, the pop-up menus reassure The Peached Tortilla fans that Tokyo-born Silverstein does not plan to stray from the Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian flavors that influence his cuisine. Instead, he intends to stick with what the truck has become known for: Asian food meets Southern comfort.
“We definitely have a niche product. As far as how to stay true to it, I think we continue to push the boundaries and surpass people's expectations,” he says. “When we first started selling food, a lot of people had no idea what a 'banh mi sandwich' was, let alone a banh mi taco. They now love our banh mi taco. My motto is to under-promise and over-deliver, and I want to continue to do so in the restaurant.”
With so much change in Austin, The Peached Tortilla's devotion to what's tried and true is quite refreshing, if not downright delectable. As the old saying goes, if it ain't broke — don't fix it. Just make it bigger, like Silverstein.
Austinites have one more chance to sample a bit of the future; Silverstein intends to host one or two more pop-up dinners before opening the restaurant in late 2014. Keep up with the plans here.