The Modular Trailer v. Guest Chef: Throwing It Down at Grand Prize Bar

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Photos by Mai Pham
Kim Chi Wings by Team Les Sauvages' Chef Justin Basye. Six wings for $6, or 12 wings for $10
Despite the growing number of "gourmet"-type food trucks in Houston, the fact that I follow most of them on Twitter, and the many crave-worthy Facebook posts by friends, I haven't really been inclined to chase down food trucks in Houston.

I think it's partly because of the heat. Do I really want to be standing in the heat waiting for food and then scarf it down on a sidewalk? It seems like it would be fun in theory, and in Southern California, it's not an issue, but when the heat index is 108 outside and I feel like I'm melting by walking just a few steps to my car, I'm not jumping at the bit to get in my car so I can chase down a food truck. Sorry.

The past several Wednesdays, however, there has been one truck whose tweets finally got me behind a wheel. The Modular Trailer, also known as the shiny tin can and brainchild of Joshua Martinez, former GM at Kata Robata, has taken things out of the truck and into the kitchen with offerings of chicken wings, ramen, more chicken wings, and this week, macaroni and cheese. I know this because I have been following their tweets and it's precisely because of said tweets that I found myself on the road to Grand Prize Bar last Wednesday night.

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The kitchen area was full in front and behind the counter!
You see, it's not just chicken wings, ramen and macaroni and cheese that they're offering. It's a chance to actually exchange words and see the chefs in action. Martinez has been getting local guest chefs to come in for an informal cooking throw-down, and I came as much to see the chefs and the outcome as I did to try the food.

Would it be the underdog shiny tin can's offerings or the offerings of the star guest chef that would reign supreme?

Katharine Shilcutt wrote about The Modular's attempts to compete with Chef Jason Hauck's handmade foie gras ramen noodles topped with shaved Perigord truffles last week. I was there that night as well, but came late, so everything was sold out. "Who won tonight?" I asked Martinez, who shook his head in mock self-disgust. "[Chef Hauck] didn't play fair. We can't compete with truffles," he said.

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Chef Lyle Bento from the Modular vs. Chef Justin Basye of Les Sauvages
This past week, knowing that there would be a chicken wing face-off between The Modular and Chef Justin Basye of Les Sauvages, I made a point of arriving well before 10 p.m. Even then, I was faced with a sold-out situation, my order slightly delayed while Martinez made an emergency grocery store run after selling out of 50 pounds by 9:30 p.m.

The delay may also have been in part because I ordered too much. I was greedy, ordering five orders of wings all to myself: Kim Chi, Kung Pao, XO sauces from Les Sauvages, and Chicken and Waffles and Pok Pok fish sauce flavors from The Modular.

"How does this competition work?" I asked Basye.

"It's nothing formal, just whoever sells the most at this point," he replied.

"And who's ahead right now?" I asked.

"We are," he said with a somewhat mischievous, self-satisfied smile.

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Chicken and waffles by The Modular. Ground gluten-free waffles and honey coated these wings, my fave of the night

This Wednesday night, The Modular will once again be in the Grand Prize Bar kitchen and the dish du jour will be macaroni and cheese. According to a recent tweet: "MAC and CHEESE Beat Down Wednesday 8pm @GrandPrizeBar with Mark of Bootsies vs @themodular . working on this today we will not lose this one."

The gauntlet has been thrown and I can't wait for the showdown. May the best team win.



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Location Info

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Grand Prize Bar

1010 Banks, Houston, TX

Category: Music


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7 comments
tamanna
tamanna

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Megan
Megan

So you mention that the Chicken and Waffles version was your favorite.  What did you like about them?  Which variety was your least favorite and why?  This reader demands answers!

ec
ec

The wings and the chicken sure don't look appetizing.  Thanks for the warning!

your pal
your pal

jumping at the bit?   Darlin....don't know if ya understood the phrase....it's supposed to be "chomping {or champing} at the bit" and that's what a horse does when it's is "ready". the bit is a thing that goes in their mouth so "jumping" would be ...um....impossible.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Megan, what happened was this: I ordered five orders. They pointed them out to me in the kitchen, but then we took all five orders to our table, it was dark, and I couldn't really figure out what was what except for the chicken & waffles and the kim chi wings - The waffles were ground into a meal and used to crust the outside of the wing. They were fried to a crisp and then drizzled with honey, and guess what? They tasted like chicken and waffles :).

My second fave, which I could make out based on the flavors was the kim-chi wings. They were slightly spicy with some acidity - the trademark kim chi flavor, and they were good. The others all tasted too similar for me to figure out which one was what -- XO, fish sauce, kung pow -- and none of the others made as much of an impression as the chicken and waffles and kim chi wings...

I also happen to be a crispy chicken skin lover, and the only wings that were crispy-ish were the chicken and waffle ones. As a flavor, I think the chicken and waffles sold out first - so i think it was a win from that standpoint. From a standpoint of total orders sold, I think Team Les Sauvages sold the most.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Your Pal, LOL!!! I am notorious for getting these sayings wrong. I catch myself getting stuff mixed up all the time. I once said "dropping the gun" when I meant "dropping the ball." Thanks for the correction and the explanation. I meant chomping at the bit, of course.

Megan
Megan

Thanks for the reply!  That's interesting that the other three were so similar to you.  The chicken and waffles version sounds amazing.  I'd be curious to know how they approached the kim chi flavor - were they marinated in the vinegar mixture or tossed in it after frying them up?

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