When you dive into a dish anchored with shrimp, lobster, or tempura fish from the Pinch Of Flavor seafood truck, be ready for a splash of commingling Japanese and Mexican cuisines.
Pinch Of Flavor specializes in fusing Japanese-style seafood with tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and saffron rice bowls. It’s a cross-cultural concept that seemed destined to come from chefs Jael Sanchez and Raul Ruiz, who worked together at a sushi restaurant for seven years before teaming up with Isis Cheves to start a food truck.
With three co-owners of Mexican heritage, the truck originally set out to serve standard Mexican fare. But the chefs soon realized that from their restaurant experience, they had plenty of Japanese flavors and techniques to add to their culinary toolkit.
“We try to mix where we come from and what we learned, like Japanese and Mexican,” said Jael. “In both cultures, they’ve got seafood. So we try to mix some cilantro, some ponzu, some mayos, and some other things.”
Pinch Of Flavor’s first major change of course was the Cancun Taco, featuring two freshly cooked colossal-sized shrimp, each larger than your knuckles, drizzled with housemade spicy mayo, and garnished with a mound of finely shredded lettuce. To truly showcase their cooking approach, they chose the largest possible size of shrimp.
The impossibly plump and puffy shrimps are a testament to careful cooking practices, adhering to Jael’s overlying principle: “I try to cook everything soft and juicy. Not too dry, but more like tender. We’re looking for that in every dish we make,” he said.
While demand grew for the shrimp taco, the menu soon evolved to include tempura codfish and lobster tails. The tempura fish has since become such a top seller that it’s now vying for another permanent spot on the menu, paired with fries as Fish & Chips. While the variety of dish options are extensive, the truck carries just enough fresh seafood each day to be served that day.
“Seafood is very delicate so we want to have it fresh all of the time. That’s what makes it really good because it’s cooked to order. And that makes a big difference,” Isis explained.
It’s easy to see why the signature dish for Pinch Of Flavor is the visually stunning Seafood Trio, which combines the truck’s taco trifecta: the Cancun Taco, Lobster Taco, and Fish Tempura Taco. The lobster tail is enhanced with housemade blueberry chipotle and garnished with microgreens, while the crunchy panko fried codfish is treated to a smoothly tangy housemade tartar sauce. All together on corn tortillas, the three starring seafoods present a feast of taco-tainment for your tastebuds.
Throughout the menu, the chefs intrepidly infuse contrasting flavors and create an interplay of textures that can’t be adequately conveyed in photos. Hints of lemon, sake, or ponzu may seep in where you wouldn’t expect. While mozzarella melts into most dishes for a familiar stringy bite, other bites might incite a doubletake, like the California Burrito stuffed with french fries. Avocado gives a smooth finish to many bites in slices or mashed into housemade guacamole. And as an added feast for the eyes, Raul may shape avocado slices into a rose to decorate your dish.
“We put our own twist on everything,” Isis said. “If we like something but find something better, we’ll change it because we’re always trying to improve on things.”
Despite specializing in seafood, Pinch Of Flavor also puts its own spin on meat, should you prefer freshly cooked Angus steak or chicken breast in your dish. Taking a step beyond the Japanese-Mexican theme, they also make substantially sized, mouthwatering Angus burgers, cushioned on slightly sweet Hawaiian sesame seed buns made locally by Homeboy Bakery.
“If people remember us for our burger, then you know it’s a good burger,” Isis said.
Vegan and vegetarian options include tacos, tortas, nachos, fries and burritos with or without mozzarella cheese. All are made with black beans, saffron rice, grilled onions and bell peppers, cilantro, and fresh guacamole.
“And if they have gluten allergies, we do bowls instead of burritos,” said Isis.
As Pinch Of Flavor ventures into new frontiers of cuisine, the outside of the truck appropriately expresses this journey. An airbrushed mural depicts a blue and diamond-colored dreamscape of clouds, eagles, and eyes, with segments purposefully covered by skateboard stickers. At night, neon lights form a glowing blue halo under the vehicle and a welcoming green beacon along the top. Adding to the funky vibe, a flat screen TV mounted on the side plays classic anime movies, such as Akira and Vampire Hunter D.
Seafood orders may take 10 minutes to cook, so the TV makes an entertaining diversion for customers. “While they’re waiting for their food, they say, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen this movie in the longest time. That’s a good movie!’ And they start getting into it and they forget about the wait,” Isis said.