I’ve already written about my love affair with Patrick Ryan’s chilaquiles verde, one of the awesome dishes coming out the window at Port Fonda’s trailer. But an evening at el comedor was a different animal altogether. Though it’s already received a four star review from the Star (Jill, you nailed it), I’ll add my two cents here.
As I described in an earlier post, Port Fonda is an Airstream trailer that has been converted into a Mexican food truck. But throw your preconceived notions of a food truck out the window and kick ‘em way down the road. Not only is the truck’s interior itself a thing of beauty, the food that Patrick is creating goes far beyond anything Kansas City has experienced before.
In addition to serving street tacos to walk-ups, Patrick and co-owner Max Watson are treating 6 diners (twice a night, weekends only) to a Mexican feast at a table that he installed inside the truck in a space that could have easily been utilized as storage. Called el comedor, this brainstorm has been an unqualified success, both financially and in terms of creating a buzz and building a loyal and fervent clientele.
Patrick is a former protegé of Rick Bayless, who owns Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago. So to say he knows how to cook authentic Mexican fare is a wee bit of an understatement.
We started with a little roasted corn number, topped with spicy crema and pork skins for crunch. A great starter.
Next up was a supplemental course, new creation of Patrick’s, literally conceived during a dream. He woke up and figured out how to make it work. And oh my, does it work. Rancho Gordo white beans form the base of the dish, and are gently pureed but still have texture. The next layer is choriblanco, similar to a boudin blanc sausage, but with a kick. It was then topped with a spicy jalapeno ranch sauce. All white, so it looks boring in the photo, but I assure you it was anything but. The mouthfeel was incredible and the flavors were intense and complex. A real winner.
Next, those fabulous chilaquiles verde with an egg on top. Unlike most chilaquiles that are a soggy mess, the tortillas that form the layers still have a crunch while still managing to absorb the salsa verde. And the salsa is a perfect recreation of those Frontera Grill salsas that my family devours in mass quantities.
The portions up to this point were manageable, though we all wanted seconds of everything. Then Patrick made room on the table for a huge pork shoulder that from then on served as our centerpiece. It was surrounded in a circle by tiny bowls full of salsas, pickled vegetables, crema, radishes, and cilantro, all of which we used to customize our tacos.
The pork was a wonder. I’ve made pork shoulder (also referred to as pork butt) before, but I’ve made the mistake of trimming the fat. No more. Patrick left the fat on, used a rub on the entire piece of meat and then slow roasted it for hours. Near the end of the cooking process the meat gets a healthy dose of brown sugar, and comes to the table with a caramel-like glaze on it resembling dripping candy. Patrick handed us tongs and instructed us tear into it. It easily fell apart as we went to town pulling from both sides. The fat was crisp and ridiculously delicious. As I ate way more than I should have, I felt as though I was eating forbidden fruit. Decadent, fattening, horrible for my health, AND amazing.
Move over David Chang. Momofuku Ssam bar in New York has nothing on Patrick Ryan and his Mexican pork shoulder.
With no room for dessert, we nonetheless managed to dig into Patrick’s sugary ricotta doughnuts, sitting atop caramel and chocolate sauces. Fortunately, the 24 year-old male in the group did a number on the leftovers so none of them were wasted.
Though I couldn’t manage to eat again until dinner time the next day, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat; it was that special.
The cost for this memorable evening? A very reasonable $250 for 6 people, 4 courses, BYOB.
At some point Patrick may change it up a bit, offering a 6-12 course tasting menu in the truck, but it sounds like he may ultimately open his own brick-and-mortar restaurant. I dream of the day.