Friday night, I got the chance to check out something new and unusual (which is saying a lot in a city where “new and usual” is the norm). The event was The Night Market, part of LUCKYRICE’s Asian Food Festival. The concept was to try and recreate the food and ambiance of a night market in Asia, here in New York City. Set in the stone archway under the Manhattan Bridge, the location was perfect providing an imposing backdrop onto which music and lanterns painted a festive atmosphere.
Though the decor played off Asian stereotypes, the throngs of people milling about and the open stalls lined up outdoors soon carried my imagination out of the city, onto someplace more exotic. Perhaps the most compelling part of the ruse were the smells. Aromas of garlic, ginger and soy wafted through the steamy air and to add a bit of authenticity, there was the unmistakable stench of stinky tofu punctuating the night.
Chef Jonathan Wright from the Setai in Miami prepares a plate of crispy pork belly with a raw oyster topped with “kimchi”. The “kimchi” was cloyingly sweet and barely recognizable, but naming aside, it was pretty good with the oyster. The pork belly on the other hand was divine. A perfect cube of tender braised pork belly that was deep fried to give it a crisp caramelized crust on the outside, while the inside burst into a pool of sweet and savory pork. It was one of the best things I ate all night.
The Japanese Culinary Center was there with a strong showing of beverages. Presented with a lineup of over twenty different sakes, shochus and Japanese beers, I thought about going down the line and trying all of them. Thankfully, I hadn’t had enough to drink yet were that would have seemed like a good idea, and I opted for a cup of Kikusui Organic Junmai Ginjo instead. It’s made with organic rice grown in the US, which is shipped to Japan for brewing.