This saturday you could hear a dial tone all over the Cosmopolitan, because the LUCKY RICE night festival was off the HOOK.

Saturday the 23rd, lovers of Asian-inspired cuisine were treated to select bites by chefs hailing from Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, and beyond.  A sold-out crowd is certainly a good omen for the inaugural Las Vegas stop on this New York based food festival.  Innovative, unique, and world-class flavors were the name of the game and our home-town heroes were bringing out an amazing array of bites right alongside some of the biggest names in Asian cuisine.

The Cosmopolitan’s own mixologists, as well as some recognized names from the bar and nightclub industry, were in charge of the night’s libations.  They shook, stirred, strained, measured, and poured their masterful concoctions through the night, each of them highlighting the Asian influences.  One of the sponsors for the LuckyRice Night Market was Bombay Sapphire East, which is their Asian botanical ingredient infused blend.  Tony Abou-Ganim, drawing from his experience pairing with Chef Jet Tila’s cuisine, was mixing up “Bubbling Rose”, a mix of Bombay East, homemade hibiscus syrup, lemon, and champagne.  Jet Tila himself was bringing out pork belly steam buns, and a braised short rib taco with brussels sprouts and a spicy, savory Kochujang salsa.  The buns themselves were very unique in that they were fried, kind of like a doughnut (pictured below).
Another standout dish was from Ari Kolender of Red Medicine in LA; chicken dumplings fried crispy on the outside with caramelized sugar, pork fat, lemongrass, and a little side of savory confitures to dip.  Colin Fukunaga and Robert “Mags” Magsalin of the Fuku Burger food truck were making bite sized versions of their Fuku fried chicken: honey sesame chicken with a cinnamon sugar fried andagi, drizzled with jackfruit maple syrup.

Ari Kolander's chicken dumplings

Chris Hopkins of the Cosmopolitan was making his aptly named cocktail, “Year of the Dragon”.  It was made with caramelized pineapple, Bombay East, yellow chartreuse, jalapeno tobasco, and a cardamom lemongrass syrup, topped off with a black pepper and sugar rim.  This beautifully complex concoction was ready right as you enter, alongside fellow Cosmopolitan residentAnthony Meidenbauer’s Thai pork ‘bahn-mi’ style slider.  With a coconut curry aioli, asian slaw, and thai basil.  It paired well with his nutty and botanical pandan cupcake with coconut cream.  Shirley Chung, already adept at the Asian fusion game at China Poblano by Jose Andres, was making a “Ro Jia Mo” red braised pork belly street sandwich and Escabeshe marinated pork ribs in a mole Amarillo sauce.  Paul Qui, Uchiko owner and Top Chef Texas winner, was making a sunchoke dashi with summer vegetables, a fried zucchini flower, and Bottarga, a cured sea urchin roe.

Cocktail by Hopkins, Burger by Meidenbauer

Naturally, someone was going to take a bao steam bun and crank it up to eleven.  Eddie Huang of Baohaus NYC, naturally, made a sous-vide char sui pork bao with Chinese salty relish, Taiwanese red sugar, and crushed peanuts.  Right next door to his booth was Southern Wine and Spirit’s sake tasting booth where Sake Sommelier Louis de Santos was serving up samples from the best of their sake catalog.  Charles Phan was on the upstairs deck serving his garlic beef rolls with thai basil and dotted with just a bit of their fiery house made sriracha.  A bit smokier and with a fruity note from the chilies, this was head and shoulders above your average rooster sauce.

Pichet Ong's Dessert

There were a few members of the LuckyRice culinary council, those charged with being the drive and spirit behind the event, serving up food from their own booths.  Susur Lee, a veteran of Top Chef Master and owner of Lee in Toronto, made a juicy rack of lamb Thailandaise with mint chutney and curry sauce.  Fellow council member Pichet Ong (Qi, NYC) was the only dessert station, serving up olive oil torrejas with strawberries, maldon salt, and a big dollop of fresh whipped cream (pictured above).  Angelo Sosa of Top Chef All-Stars and Social Eatz in New York was behind one dish that really knocked it out of the park.  This sideways version of surf and turf was served on top of a hollowed bone with a few slices of fluke sashimi, with a scoop of bone marrow mixed with parmesan reggiano.  With just a little slice Japanese cucumber and finished with a blowtorch to get the parmesan just a bit toasty, this was one amazing little bite.  The line was consistently around the corner after word got around about this delectable dish.

Bone marrow and fluke sashimi

After such an uproarious first year here in Vegas, the LuckyRice Night Market is sure to visit us again.  With such amazing dishes and cocktails from so many talented chefs and mixologists, this event stands as one to clear your calendar for.