This past Friday night I attended the Lucky Rice Feast at the Ferry Building in San Francisco with a few friends. Lucky Rice began in New York about four years ago as an effort to promote and celebrate Asian Cuisine in the U.S. The Feast has since spread to other parts of the country with annual feasts now taking place in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco. 2013 marked the first year for the feast to be held here in the Bay Area.
Lucky VIP attendees were treated to some time with Chef Masaharu Morimoto of Food Network and Iron Chef fame. My party opted for the “regular” admission so we were not so Lucky to hang with Morimoto but we were Lucky enough to partake in the rest of the Feastivities, which featured an all-inclusive night of sampling small plates of Asian delicacies, as well as copious free cocktails, all made with an Asian twist!
Twenty local Asian restaurants were recruited for the Feast, each of which contributed either one or two small sampling plates for the guests. Booze was sponsored mostly by a number of liquor, beer or wine brands, but there were also a couple of local bars on tap who mixed up some tasty concoctions.
The event was summed up pretty well by a woman in attendance who I overheard remarking to her friend, “It’s like Costco, but high class!” I thought this was not only hilarious—both her friend and I were totally cracking up, even though I was blatantly eavesdropping on their conversation—but fairly accurate! “Free” (although the event was far from free at $88 a head) food samples just seem to bring out something in people that tends toward the grab-bag mentality characterized by Bigger is Better stores like Costco, especially after standing in line until after 8 pm to get some chow, not to mention the free booze, which also tends to send people back for more and more. Yes, it was far nicer (and the food far better than frozen dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets), but the comparison was not lost on me!
Also at work were a couple of other crowd-gathering behavioral phenomena, which I’ll call supply and demand and flocking. At tables where the staff tended to be running behind or a bit slower in getting food on the table, crowds tended to gather in wait since, causing curiosity out of sheer demand since nothing was available. Flocking tended to happen at tables that had particularly good food. Izakaya Yuzuki managed to pull off both things at once—their plating was an intricate combination of a slice of duck, served with a small cube of corn tofu, a small fig quarter and some stone ground mustard. Not only was it one of the best plates of the night, but since plating all of these components took some time, there was both constant demand and flocking at their booth.
Amusing sociological and behavioral observations aside, there was a lot of good local food and it was a great venue for checking out what a bunch of restaurants you may not have tried yet are capable of—there’s definitely some I’d like to try after sampling their Lucky offerings. Below is a list of what I thought were the best offerings that night:
Roast Duck with Corn Tofu
I am not always a fan of duck, but this duck was dee-lish! And I loved the corn tofu—really smooth—it actually tasted more like a savory pudding. Green fig accompaniment topped this off. Together, a near perfect bite.
Seared Spiced Venison
M.Y. China for Cathay Pacific
Mmmmm—curried venison. Need I say more? Probably not, but I will. Venison, like duck, is also not something I eat a lot of—I’m not a fan of gamey meats, but this little chunk of venison with curry was great. This offering was from Martin Yan’s (Yup – Yan can indeed cook!) new restaurant in the Westfield Center in downtown San Francisco. It was served atop a tiny nest of fried noodles, with pickled vegetables. Difficult to get each component into one bite to see how they complemented each other, but I liked each on their own a lot.
Koi Soi: Issan Beef Tartare
I was looking forward to seeing what Hawker Fare would have because I’m both a fan and I was hella stoked that they were there representin’ for Oaktown! Yum. A bite of beef tartare topped with a couple herb leaves (I wish I knew what they were!). I turned my little boat serving bowl upside down, wrapped the tartare in the leaves and popped it in my mouth—really good tartare, complimented perfectly by the fresh herbs!
Avocado Panna Cotta
I suppose it should come as no surprise that one of the most amazing dishes of the night came from The Slanted Door. I was probably more surprised that they came with dessert! But what a dessert it was! Avocado panna cotta, with banana tapioca and crisp lime meringue. This was so good, I actually had two! The panna cotta was so smooth and not cloyingly sweet since it was avocado. Topping it with the boba and meringue was great because they provided two fun textures and flavors to complement the custard. I love the texture of boba anyway—anything that’s chewy and pops softly like that is just a mouth party! And the lime meringue pieces—they almost looked like little pieces of Styrofoam on top, but they provided a nice crunch in contrast to the creamy elements and a nice tartness.
As for the booze, I didn’t try all the drinks (or they would have had to mop me up from the floor), but I had a couple that stood out…
42 Below Vodka, St. Germain, Watermelon juice, lime juice, agave nectar and mint.
Bombay®Dry gin, Matcha Tea Powder, Lemongrass-infused Coconut Cream, Thai Chili, Ginger Puree and Peanut Butter, Pandan and Kaffir Lime Leaves
I am not a gin drinker – I usually avoid it because it reminds me of 1) Pine Sol; and 2) the juniper bushes in my front yard as a kid. I just can’t drink something that reminds me of crawling through bushes as a kid. But this drink was sooooo good. Peanut butter, matcha, coconut cream and lime—that combo does it for me, gin or no gin! And yes, you could taste the peanut butter and yes it was awesome! As their TV ads say, this drink had just the right amount of wrong to make it soooo right. What happens at Lucky Rice…
All recipes and photos copyright of Foie Gras and Funnel Cakes unless otherwise noted.