It's love at first bite with Lidia's Dominican Kitchen (@lidiaskitchen), a food truck run by someone who actually knows how to cook, not someone who's just itching to cash in on a trend. It no doubt helps that owner Lidia Ramirez ran a catering company, so she has both the culinary chops and the organizational skills to cook great food at a street eats pace. For fans of Dominican food, it means they don't have to always trek to Mama Fina in Bellflower.
Rife with Spanish and Arabian influences, the homey Dominican cuisine at this truck runs to three basic entrees with a slew of sides. There's roasted chicken, pernil (roasted pork) and either (or none) of these meats stuffed into a green plantain sandwich known as a patacon pisao.
Pernil, best known as a Puerto Rican dish, is pork shoulder that's roasted low and slow with citrus and plenty of garlic. At Lidia's, the meat, served in a generous portion with two sides, is tender and wonderfully garlicky. If for some reason you think it needs more kick, throw on a couple spoonfuls of the creamy white garlic sauce, which could go toe-to-toe with Zankou's pungent paste. (The truck also offers a green chimchurri sauce with a tangy dose of garlic and a red paste of chili flakes for those who want raw heat.)
The basic sides include rice and two kinds of beans (red or black). Asking a Dominican which of the two they prefer is something of a Sophie's Choice. Lidia's also makes arroz con gandules, known as pigeon peas. Common throughout Indian, Eastern Africa and Central America, they may taste to a Western palate like a cross between a red bean and a lentil. Here, they're soft with a bite of snap to the husk and served on a bed of rice. Whatever Lidia is doing to the beans and rice, she's doing it right.
Among the Dominican specialties, there are two kinds of plantains (sweet and yellow or green and drizzled with garlic sauce), yuca fries cut as thick as a fat man's thumb and simpler preparation of yuca: boiled and topped with pickled red onions. We were especially impressed to see quipes, a Dominican version of the Middle Eastern kebbeh, meatballs or croquettes made of chopped beef and bulgur wheat. Apparently, so is everyone else because the truck always seems to run out of quipes in a heartbeat.
We're partial to the morir soñando, a drink that's basically a liquid version of an orange creamsicle. Creamy, frothy, sweet and a bit tart, it's a perfect fit for the rest of the terrific menu on this truck.
Softly launched a couple of weeks ago, the Lidia's Dominican Kitchen has its big coming out party this Sunday, from 1 to 7 p.m. at The Truck Stop on the corner of Beverly and La Brea.