Last Friday, the underpass under the Manhattan Bridge was swarming with hungry people at the Lucky Rice Festival’s Night Market. Stands from Momofuku Milk Bar, An Choi, Umi Nom, and 23 others were handing out free samples as well as selling goodies on the side. Celeb chefs were also making the rounds, including David Chang (the night’s official host) and Fatty ‘Cue mastermind Zak Pelaccio.
Nolita’s Neighbor of the Year award winner, Delicatessen, actually turned out one of the better samples, a foie gras and beef short rib dumpling with a five spice consommé. Note to other Asian restaurateurs: This is a winning combination, although adding foie gras to just about anything usually is.
Umi Nom had another winner, the “Adobo and Atchara,” the former referring to the pork belly braised in the classic Filipino combination of soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic, and the latter to the pungent pickled vegetables served alongside it. The most crowded stand, however, might have been AsiaDog. The wandering hot dog collective was dishing out wieners like lighting, slapping on delicious accoutrements like kimchi and seaweed flakes and a Thai concoction rich in peanuts and fish sauce. Definitely catch them on Sundays at Brooklyn Flea or Thursday nights at Trophy Bar in Williamsburg. For those who could not be satiated with samples, cheap street food abounded. The BaoHaus crew were selling their Niman Ranch-sourced bao while An Choi dished out a gut-bomb of a meatball banh mi slider.
The real action was, of course, at the open bar. People trying to get their 50 dollars’ worth out of their wristbands flocked towards the selection of Asian-style booze, which included Brooklyn Brewery’s new Sorachi Ace. Brewed exclusively with lemony Sorachi Ace hops (originally only found in Japan but now grown by a small farm in Oregon), Sorachi Ace is a beautifully balanced saison that’s equal parts dry and sweet with a gentle citrusy finish and hint of spice that’s perfect for summer.
Japan’s burgeoning craft beer movement was also on display with Coedo Brewery’s Beniaka , a potent, mildly malty brew imbued with an odd sweetness from sweet potatoes. It wasn’t for everyone, but for beer nerds who think they have tried everything, it’s worth a sip.
For a festival celebrating Asia’s culinary heritage, it would have been nice to see a few more traditional Asian restaurants represented in place of some of the more puzzling additions (Slice, The Perfect Food?). The crowd would have gone crazy over Xi’an Famous Foods’ lamb burgers or Hua Ji Pork Chop Fast Food’s garlicky pork chop, both delicious and easy to serve street food-style. Plus, $50 seemed a bit steep for the privilege of buying small bites and eating samples, although those who took full advantage of the open bar got their money’s worth.
Still, any event that aims to raise the profile of Asian cookery in New York City is a fine thing, and the food on offer was pretty good, even if it wasn’t completely representative of the city’s Asian restaurant scene.