Local chefs present multi-course meal

Mar. 11—TRAVERSE CITY — Aiko means "beloved child" or "little loved one" in Japanese.

Chef Ryan Mateling chose this for his food truck Aiko Street Food.

"It's named after my grandmother," he said.

Mateling presents four courses and dessert during the March 12 restaurant takeover at Smoke and Porter Public House. He aims to highlight traditional Japanese dishes, following the concept of "izakaya."

"It's like a neighborhood small bar and grill with small plates," he explained. "I think it's perfect for a food truck because it's a quicker food style."

The dinner will start with the "Ingen No Goma -ae," green beans with tahini sauce, fried tofu, edamame, sesame seeds and lotus root.

The Dojo provides fresh sushi for the event. Chef Brent Shafer said he is excited to participate.

"We thought it'd be fun to do something neat like this," Shafer said.

Shafer plans to contribute his nigiri (tuna and miso-glazed salmon), seven-spice tuna roll, garden roll (mushroom) and Tako (octopus) sushi. For dessert is the matcha cake, also on the menu at the Dojo.

Mateling added that he a Smoke and Porter Chef Henry Bisson have known each other for years, as they worked together in restaurants.

Mateling graduated from Bellaire High School, attended college and then enrolled at the Great Lake Culinary Institute. He worked around northern Michigan at places like Harbor 22 (now West End Tavern) in Traverse City, Lulu's Bistro in Bellaire and Leland Lodge. He worked on the Roaming Harvest food truck and helped run others at the Little Fleet.

In Detroit, he saw his restaurant friends hosting popups to promote their business.

Once the pandemic hit, he was laid off and thought "I'm going to go 100 percent on the food truck." He started looking into that and did some trial runs of Aiko Street Food at the Little Fleet and Bee Well Mead and Cider.

"I did a few teasers to see if it's even worth while," Mateling said. "That's how I honed in my menu: trial and error."

Some items from the kitchen takeover will be on the menu at Mateling's food truck, including the green beans. Another dish to look for is a grilled rice paper pizza made with scrambled quail egg, chicken confit, tuna bonito flake, mayo and sriracha.

Mateling said he will use an "authentic, clay-made bamboo charcoal grill" that cooks items quickly over high heat. His focus will be small vegetable plates with rotating proteins.

"This food truck is not going to have the typical dumplings, ramen or sushi or any of those cliché words," he said. "There's a lot more to Japanese cooking than those two cuisines."

Aiko Street Food aims to open outside of the Coin Slot, 346 E. Front St., in May and remain there at least through the summer.

The kitchen takeover begins at 6 p.m. March 12 at Smoke and Porter Public House. Call the restaurant at 231-642-5020 to make a reservation.