May 10, 2010

Night Market

Pork Belly & Oysters at The Setai




The LUCKYRICE Night Market, inspired by the night markets of many food-obsessed Asian countries, was more than just another tasting; it was a full-sensory experience. Enticing aromas of soy, curry, and roasted meat dominated the air. However, the ever-pungent stinky tofu naturally made its way into the middle of the mix (like the "omg, it's that guy" at your last birthday party). A symphony of sizzling and clattering pans was still audible over the hipster jam music, while the hoards of greedy eaters elbowed their way over each other for the next plate of snacks. All of this made me wonder, "Was I really in DUMBO or was I just transported to Hong Kong?"

Of the 27 restaurants/food companies that participated under the Archway, I managed to try about 90% of them. A diverse showcase of native Asian or Asian-inspired cooks and chefs captured a mix of traditional and "modernized" eats. A select few restaurants really blew me away with their interpretations, but at the end of the day, I was left wanting more authenticity. Then again, I'll get plenty of that when I visit Shanghai later this summer.

My favorites of the night:
  • Foie Gras and Beef Short Rib Dumpling from Delicatessen: Beyond the rich, savory flavors of the dumpling, I really enjoyed the hot Five Spices consomm√© that was poured on top of the dumpling at the last minute. The broth added a new level of comfort to this dish... I could've eaten a dozen more!
  • Crisp Fried Pork Belly, Kimchee and Island Creek Oyster from The Setai, South Beach, Miami: Great elements on their own and interesting all together. The generous cut of rich pork belly wasn't the natural compliment to the pickled veggies and bivalve, but the texture of the pork and crispy kimchee played nicely off of each other. I tried the oyster both ways: naked and with kimchee. The bold, acidic flavors of the kimchee overpowered the delicate oyster. Perhaps a smaller sliver of kimchee would've better balanced this dish. The Island Creek Oyster itself was delicious. Plump, juicy and salty: the quintessential oyster of the East.
  • Gourmet Curry Rice from Curry-Ya: One of the simplest and humble presentations, the plate of rice with curry sauce really wowed me. This was the quintessential street food; uncomplicated and delicious. The curry emitted a smooth and unobtrusive heat, short of "spicy," that complimented the rice superbly.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza from Slice: I've already had this and it's still a win for me! 
  • Chocolate-Coated Vanilla Ice Cream with Olive Oil & Sea Salt from Big Gay Ice Cream Truck: Definitely the most surprisingly successful flavor combination that I tried! It helped that the soft serve ice cream and chocolate coating was very simple. The salt bits enhanced the savory flavors of the semi-dark chocolate.
In addition to the food stands under the Archway, there was also a dedicated bar room in the nearby loft with unlimited amounts of sake, cocktails, beers and wines (uber dangerous). There was also the Malaysian Pavillion at Pearl & Water Streets that included samples from several other notable Asian restaurants around NYC, featuring my favorites: Nyonya and Penang.

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