Shinobu Diegos tacos y burritos food truck hit the Phoenix streets for the first time on Saturday, February 4. Opening day was planned to be a slower venue, located outside of K1 Speed, to help with ensuring they were able to deliver quality food with a minimal wait time while they adjusted to the excitement, fear, and uncertainty of opening a new food truck. Owner and Chef, Marc Shelton, always wanted to own his own restaurant, but the cost of opening a brick and mortar location were daunting; a food truck offered the best of both worlds.
Shinobu Diegos brings an interesting twist to our common conception of food trucks; simple street food of Mexican inspiration infused with Japanese flavors. I was intrigued at the thought of tacos and burritos with a Japanese flair for flavor, who would have thought of combining the two? Well, obviously Marc did! His inspiration came from the overhauled food trucks, which contradict every notion we have of “roach coaches” but serving up high quality food, in particular the standard Mexican taco and burrito trucks. But to make this his own, he wanted to infuse the flavors he grew up with from his Japanese heritage. Marc is starting slow, his menu was limited to tacos while he gets his feet wet, but he does plan on expanding the menu to include additional items, namely burritos.
Opening day offered up four different taco options, and I tried them all! After all, how could I not get a taste of everything being offered on opening day?
I attempted to taste each of the tacos in what I expected to be increasing flavor due to the protein, or in the case of my first taco, lack of protein. First up are the Shinobu Papas taco and Shinobu Pollo taco.
I started with the Shinobu Papas Veggie taco, inspired by Marc’s girlfriend who is vegetarian and likes a bite of spice. A potato based taco, this should be interesting. Your first bite, to quote my husband “This is good, but my pallet is confused!” You have a beautiful looking taco, but upon your first bite you are struck by the Japanese flavors; your eyes told you Mexican, but your mouth corrected you and told you Japanese. The potatoes are diced and then soaked in a homemade spicy teriyaki marinade. Once cooked, the potatoes are placed on two corn tortillas accompanied by Diego saw (julienned cucumbers and carrots tossed in Shinobu’s homemade vinaigrette), cilantro-green onion relish, toasted sesame seeds, SD avocado crema, SD Sriracha crema, cojita cheese, and garnished with a lime wedge. I was concerned about texture, but the Diego slaw and cilantro-green onion relish provided a wonderful crunch against the potatoes. Between the acidity of the vinaigrette on the Diego slaw and a squeeze of the lime wedge, there was a wonderful acidity that enhanced the flavors of the various components. And then there were the cremas; the Sriracha crema provided an additional kick of spiciness, while the avocado crema provided a cooling refresh against the spice of the marinade and Sriracha crème, as well as the acidity of the slaw. Not a bad start, especially since this taco had no meat!
Now on to the Shinobu Pollo taco. The staple toppings are relatively consistent across all of the tacos. This was a teriyaki marinated chicken, also accompanied by Diego slaw, cilantro-green onion relish, toasted sesame seeds, cojita cheese, garnished with lime wedge. Chicken thigh meat is used, which helps keep the chicken moist, and the dark meat really absorbs the teriyaki flavor from the marinade. There is a slight sweetness to the chicken from the teriyaki marinade, but this is very nicely balanced by the acidity of the Diego slaw and squeeze of lime. Another success, all the while your mind is still playing tricks on your pallet!
Two down, two to go, I’m half way through my experience! , and now it is time for the Shinobu Carnitas taco. This taco has ginger marinated roasted pork, accompanied by tsukemono (Japanese pickles), onions, cilantro, toasted sesame seeds, cojita cheese, SD Sriracha crema, and garnished with lime wedge. The ginger marinated roasted pork has a great smoky flavor that plays against the tsukemono.
And last, but not least is the Shinobu Asada-Yaki taco; I love beef so this is the one I’ve been waiting for. This is a teriyaki-citrus marinated beef, accompanied by cilantro-onion relish, green onions, toasted sesame seeds, SD avocado crema, cojita cheese, and garnished with a lime wedge. I found the beef to be slightly on the sweet side, although not so sweet that it was too much to eat. A little less sweetness and a little more acidity would have made this taco more balanced.
All in all, this was truly a unique experience, and one that I would recommend. Since Marc chose a slightly less frequented spot for his opening day, he was able to keep the quality high and turn out good food in a short time. He has been fortunate enough to have his mother Mary, who is retired, help him as he gets his gears greased and his feet wet in his new adventure. I suspect the unique twist on Mexican-Japanese cuisine will fare well in Phoenix, especially given the fusion of two unexpected cuisines.
I truly had a wonderful time during my visit, with time to chat with Marc and Mary. While this was opening day for Shinobu Diegos tacos y burritos, Marc has experience as a chef in restaurant kitchens. Obviously the kitchen in a food truck is much smaller and more limiting than your standard kitchen, but he did take advantage of getting a little experience both with cooking and meeting the demands of large crowds by helping Brian Webb of Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food on Friday night.