When LuckyRice, which hosts events in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Miami, announced plans to bring its Asian themed food festival to San Francisco, it was hard not to be a little excited. The idea is a great one especially considering the caliber of restaurants serving great Asian cuisine in the Bay Area that don't often get assembled like this. Throw in a choice of 14 different cocktails (most featuring the sponsoring spirit, Bombay Sapphire East Gin) and a relatively inexpensive admission price ($88), and the idea gets even better.
For the first out of the gate, the event was a great success. The range of restaurants and food being served was unusually excellent with a variety of dishes that felt well-curated (no duplicates that we noticed). There were no clunkers, but there were some standouts: the Mamak radish cake from Azalina's, topped with chutney and crispy bits of veggies and nuts was a textural journey in spice and flavor, as were the Chiang Mai meatballs with toasted cashews, coconut, tamarind, and thai chilies from the upcoming Michael Mina spot Pabu. Other notable bites were the house cured local salmon from Ichi Sushi, dashi-marinated cherry tomatoes with sake cured lardo from Hopscotch, beef tartare in shiso leaf from Hawker Fare, and a gorgeous duck with corn tofu dish from Izakaya Yuzuki.
There was even a little bit of fun blend of cultures, like the Mexican-Asian fusion like the chicharrones with uni from Roka Akor and the albacore tuna tostada from Tacolicious.
The dessert from Fifth Floor, an ethereal play in texture and temperature in the black tea cremeux with calamansi ice and menthol espuma, and the earthy avocado panna cotta with banana tapioca and crisp lime meringue from Slanted Door were worth the price of admission alone.
The selection of cocktails was also very good, and while almost all of them featured the sponsoring spirit Bombay Sapphire East, the gin's mild juniper flavor, spiked with the addition of lemongrass, ginger, and black pepper botanicals allowed for great variety. Especially tasty sips came from Jasper's Corner Tap with their Tzatziki & Tonic that combined the gin with yogurt and cucumber to the Island Cloud from Smuggler's Cover that made gin wonderfully tropical.
The most unusual was the The Spice Trade (Bombay Sapphire East Gin, lemon juice, saffron/lemongrass/green cardamom syrup, kaffir lime leaves, ginger beer) that included a Sichuan flower buds that tasted grassy with a tingling, numbing effect on the tongue that made the drink taste extremely cold -- a very fun effect.
The DJ's music may not have suited all tastes, but it suited the young crowd perfectly, keeping everyone moving, even in line. That said there were some things that didn't quite work. The event was divided into two spaces at the Ferry Building, which made for some confusion and missed dishes. It seemed like the scale of the event either needed to be smaller or held at a bigger venue. The use of thick disposable plastic ware for all the food and drinks was unfortunate, hopefully compostable plates and cups will make their way into the celebration next time.
Minor issues aside, we can't wait for next year's LuckyRice event.