Early this year, Chris Ball started the pop-up Izakaya Ball with his brother Michael Ball, who has since left the city. A couple of months ago, Ball and friends Bailey Brupbacher and J. Tuscano launched Dadquiri (@dadquiri on Instagram), a mobile food operation run out of a 1971 Airstream trailer. It has upcoming events at Parleaux Beer Lab, Courtyard Brewery, Second Line Brewing, Okay Bar, Barrel Proof and the Contemporary Arts Center. Ball spoke with Gambit about the concept.
How would you describe the food you're cooking?
Ball: It's hard to say, but may- be progressive modern? It's a little bit Asian, Southern and Indian. It's exotic flavors mixed with my Southern roots. I cooked in the city here for about six years, and then I cooked in Austin (Texas) for three years. We grew up duck hunting and fishing and at home had a lot of soul food. I'm trying to make dishes that have nostalgic layers.
Ever since we were young, my brother and I would try replicating dishes that we found at restaurants. When we started (working in restaurants), every time we were off or hungover, we always wanted food that was good for the soul and cheap. So on our off days, we would go shopping at the Asian market and then go home and do the research and try to replicate the dishes we loved. After a while, we tried making it our own thing.
We have a smoked cauliflower vindaloo roti, where we make a curry vindaloo base using peanuts, spice and pickled jalapenos. That's a spread that we put over the roti, and on top of that we've got toasted peanuts, cauliflower, fermented red onions, radishes, Thai basil and cilantro. A lot of vegetarians like that dish. We change the dishes every week, but we will most likely always have a ramen. There's one that we did recently with local wild boar. I make an oyster broth with kombu dashi and leeks and garlic, so it's almost like an oyster stew but a little more Japanese with soy sauce and sake. We top that off with the typical ramen eggs — tamago eggs — and then we smoke the boar shoulder, bread it and fry it katsu-style. We also add charred corn butter with miso, collard greens, house-fermented peppers and burnt garlic oil.
What are some of your culinary influences?
B: One of the first dishes that we would eat was something my dad loved to make: bean fried noodles, with the thin vermicelli noodles, pork, soy sauce and mirin. He used to cook it for us all the time when we were little. It's a dish he always tried to replicate from this restaurant we would eat at in Metairie. I think we were 3 or 4 years old, but I'll always remember that.
How does the concept differ from a pop-up?
B: Everything is done out of the Airstream trailer, which is a 1971 Land Yacht Airstream trailer. It seems like pop-ups tend to do better in New Orleans, but really, (ours) is a food truck. Come January, we'll start catering and doing parties and weddings. We won't just be doing pop-ups or food truck service, it will be a little bit bigger than that.
I worked in Austin for three years, and every place you went to — every bar — had either a food trailer or a truck parked outside. We're going to start looking for lot space, and we're going to try to start our own food lot that's got shipping containers and have the trailer in one spot. Maybe (it will) have three different restaurants there and an open bar and maybe some chickens and goats — kind of like Paradigm (Gardens) meets South American cooking over wood fires, and there will be live music and it will be family friendly. There's nothing really like that here, so our goal is to get to that point. We'll just keep working at it and see what happens.