I’ve got a confession to make. I just got back from a trip to Seattle (where of COURSE I ate like a pig and drank lots of fabulous cocktails) and I still haven’t finished my restaurant write-ups from the last time I visited, two months ago.
Really, though, there’s only one review from that trip worth doing, and that’s the fabulously named Marination. I know that Korean Mexican fusion is old hat now. It’s all over LA, it’s proliferating in food trucks in Portland and San Francisco, and it has crept and spread eastward, like a virus, to Chicago, Atlanta, New York, and even London. (I’m not 100% sure about this last, but it sounded good.) But Seattle’s Marination Mobile, you must understand, was one of the forerunners of the movement. When the Marination Mobile food truck opened in Seattle, Korean Mexican fusion was new and daring and the Marination Mobile food truck (justifiably) got lots of press and even was voted best food truck in the USA by Good Morning America.
I first learned about Marination after I’d moved to London. My Seattle friends gloated over me. “You haven’t been? It’s soooo good,” said friend P. Marination, in fact, occupied far more of my thoughts than perhaps was entirely reasonable, given that I was living 5,000+ miles away in a city that (at long last) is a food mecca. I finally went to Marination after it had become so feted, so roaringly successful, that it sprouted bricks and mortar and opened in a teeny weeny storefront above the Harvard Market. Voilá! Marination Station.
So the first thing I learned about Marination is that it’s not just Korean-Mexican fusion; it’s more sort of Hawaiian-Korean with a bit of Mexican thrown in. The second thing, to my shame, is that I was less enamored of the fusion-y dishes and more into the dishes that evoked straight up Korean. Ergo: I was a HUGE fan of the kimchi fried rice ($5.50). (Friend S doesn’t eat meat so we had it with “sexy tofu,” but you can order it with spicy pork, kalbi beef, or ginger chicken.) The rice was properly spicy and strongly tangy (they’re not shy with the kimchi, bless them), it had just enough delicate crunch of toasted sesame and furikake, and then there was the marvelous unctuousness of the egg yolk spreading through and lubricating everything.
I was less enthusiastic about the kalua pork slider ($2.25 apiece). It was too bready, and the soft marinated pork shoulder was overpowered by the sweet-tangy nunya sauce. The kalua kimchi quesadilla ($5.50), however, made a strong case for Hawaiian-Korean-Mexican fusion. You wouldn’t necessarily think that a flour tortilla stuffed with pork, kimchi, and cheese, topped with a “Korean-style crema”, crunchy slaw and more of the pickled jalapenos would work. Or at least I didn’t. Somehow, though, the whole untidy gooey tangy spicy caloric affair came together to create the perfect stoner food.
Doesn’t that look CRAZY? Like a college dorm room special topped with Russian dressing? In fact, that’s kind of what it tasted like, and it made me want a beer. Fortunately, Marination Station’s thought of that too.
To be honest, I’d probably sooner go for really good Mexican food or really good Korean food than hit the fusion again, but Marination’s somehow perfectly tapped into what you (or at least I) want from street food, AND they’ve added kimchi. Way to go.
1412 Harvard Avenue (in the Harvard Market above the QFC), Seattle, WA 98122
Price per person: Under $10, not including drinks
The verdict: I’d eat here again