The amount of ogling this flamboyant brick of fries, meat, cheese, and kimchi received as I carried it from the service counter to my seat was like nothing I’d ever seen. I tried using my body to shield it from stares and thought about screaming, “Don’t you people have any decency?!?” while panting and looking around all wild-eyed but decided against it at the last minute.
When I sat down, a fully-grown adult human in a business suit came up to me and said, verbatim, “Holy shit, that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. What is that?” I pointed to the small whiteboard specials sign next to the cash register that everyone at Kogi Taqueria apparently failed to see. Gotta keep your head on a swivel. He ordered the fries after he’d already finished his lunch. He was happy about it.
In everyone’s defense, it’s hard not to stare at a bucket of beer-battered fries blanketed in carnitas, kimchi, cheese, and a trio of brightly-colored sauces that combine to form a splatter painting of Guy-Fieri-on-a-bender-bold flavors. It just attracts attention. It’s like the food version of a peacock fanning out its plumage to say, “even though I’m 3,000 calories and will immediately make you go comatose, choose me as your lunch mate.” And you do.
The Kimchi Carnitas Ooey-Gooey Fries really are the perfect food—which you already knew after reading that description—but to understand why, you have to look at its contemporaries. Take poutine, for instance. It took me embarrassingly long to admit that I don’t actually like the Canadian drunk food classic of thick-cut fries covered in corn-starchy brown gravy and cheese curds.
Fries smothered in delicious things is obviously a phenomenal concept, but poutine neglects crucial elements like crunch, heat, and acid. It fails to provide any flavor or texture that isn’t salt and mush.
Die hard poutine supporters would argue that every dish doesn’t have to be a study in flavor and textural contrast, and that the gloppy, soggy brown mess with chopped up bits of string cheese needs to be embraced for what it is. To which I would respond, “Nahhhhhh” while shoving some of these kimchi carnitas fries in front of their face.
Poutine just can’t compete with these on any level, even down to the treatment of the potato. The beer batter on Kogi’s fries acts as a protective coating so the carnitas juices can’t penetrate fully and create the flaccid mess that you find with most poutines. And then there’s the carnitas: tender, spicy, literally dripping with flavor and a million times better than the brown gravy that tastes how dog food smells (you know it’s true).
Even if the cheddar jack blend was where the gravy train stopped, the combo of beer-battered fries, juicy carnitas, and melted cheese is already better than every single poutine I’ve ever had. But then you get the funky fermenty bass line of kimchi running throughout the whole thing, and three—three!—sauces, all with different merits, thrown on top. You have the fiery salsa roja, the herbaceous sesame salsa verde, and then the sour cream to cool it all down and gradually melt its way through the labyrinth of fried potatoes giving some much needed love to the stragglers at the bottom.
All that nonsense and aggrandizement aside, the kimchi carnitas fries shouldn’t be overthought. Once you take a bite with all the ingredients together, everything just combines to make sense. And it will make you forget poutine ever existed.
It’s a limited-time-only special, but I’m sure if we stat a Change dot org petition, we can get it on the permanent menu. Be the change you wish to see in the world.