Updated with quote by Lucky Rice founder, Danielle Chang.
The first Lucky Rice festival in Miami was Friday at SoHo House in Miami Beach. Lucky Rice has put together previous “Night Market” and other events to celebrate Asian food in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Their tagline is: “After all, if we are what we eat, then we’re all part Asian.”
Founder Danielle Chang gave me her reasons for starting Lucky Rice in Miami:
I was super excited to bring LUCKYRICE to Miami because I think Miami is such an interesting culinary destination. With the tiny Asian population, it also astounded me as to why there are so many large concept Asian restaurants in town–Hakkasan, Katsuya, Sushi Samba, Makoto, Khong River House–all of which participated in our festival. I wanted to call attention to the international, worldly dining culture in Miami that is actually quite Asian-inspired. And what a better time of the year to be in Miami than in December just before the craziness of Art Basel sets in?
I procured media passes for this first festival. I mingled with the stylish, mostly younger crowd throughout the magnificent pool, tiki and tent areas. Most of the food and beverages were exceptional, but the standouts for me were by Douglas Rodriguez, Susur Lee, Todd English and Cricket Nelson.
Lines were reasonable at most areas, indicating a good party cap or perhaps slower ticket sales for this first event in a new city. Whatever the reason, the numbers were just right to ensure a festive atmosphere without feeling claustrophobic or jostled (You know you’re getting older when you hate to be “jostled.”) This destroys the atmosphere, at least for me, at several otherwise promising events in Miami.
Friday’s Lucky Rice event was filtered through a “Chino Latino” lens, this being Miami. Douglas Rodriguez served his smoked marlin tacos. They’re not really Asian at all, and Rodriguez typically offers them at his restaurant, De Rodriguez Cuba, as well as at other events, but they were still delicious.
The kicker, however, was his juicy mojo-marinaded-pulled-pork sandwich with aji de chicharron; it was pressed, warm, and juicy. Rodriguez knows how to do an elevated Cuban sandwich. This was the “Latino” component of the promised roast meat. I wondered about the Caja China display; Rodriguez says it was the original plan but it would have proved unwieldy for serving large crowds quickly. I went back for two of the sandwiches.
Susur Lee was responsible for the Chinese-style roast–duck in this case. Lee is executive chef of restaurants in Toronto, Washington D.C., and Singapor; he was also a Top Chef Masters competitor on Bravo. He sang along with the romantic Chinese songs performed by a chanteuse at the pool, while putting the finishing touches on char sui duck sandwiches with onion marmalade. The crispy, sweet shreds of meat were wrapped in pillowy buns–we got seconds of those, too.
Todd English’s confit-pork-belly-and-rock-shrimp fried rice, served in small Chinese take-out containers was umami-packed. His crew worked fiendishly, while English surveyed the crew and mugged for cameras (below).
Piquant grilled pork sausage by Chef Bee of Khong River House provides an enticing preview of the soon-to-open restaurant from the folks who brought Miami Yardbird. I’m sorry that I somehow overlooked the Khong River House bar.
Cricket Nelson’s inventive, multi-layered cocktails were my favorite drinks of the evening by far. Nelson consults for restaurants like Clarke’s and Cooper Avenue. If I could buy these drinks somewhere I would, but Nelson told me they are quite labor intensive for serving on a daily basis.
The Lucky Spice, with a Tequila Cazadores Reposado base, was tart with a smooth burn from the Madras curry spiced salt rim and from the chilis in the drink. Ginger and cilantro added depth and surprise flavors.
The Bombay Blossoms cocktail was based on Bombay Sapphire East Gin, a spiced plum wine reduction and jasmine tea syrup. Not only was the drink lovely to look at, it was sweet and floral (from the jasmine and the orange blossom), without being cloying. Then, there was an herbal note from the basil.
Gabe Urrutia of Bacardi also composed unique drinks which deserve a mention, including one made with a Urrutia’s own tonic syrup including Chinese allspice and cinchona bark. Rick Nani of SoHo Beach house made a cocktail, the Szechuan basil smash, with a mildly biting peppercorn syrup. I had to try it twice as well.
Other event participants included Sushi Samba, Hakkasan, Tuyo, Makoto, Katsuya, Eating House and Filthy Food.
More pictures are below.