Chef Pichet Ong brought an incredible balance of flavors in this really refreshing salad. The eggplant—marinated in lime juice, lemongrass, Thai chili, and garlic added a good bit of depth and a hit of heat to counterbalance the bright cilantro and lime.
The General: Chicken Taco
Chef Hung Hyunh used a fried dumpling skin to wrap this slightly sweet, spicy chicken taco that was cooked down with chili, fish sauce, garlic, and a touch of sugar. It was a slightly salty, wonderfully non-greasy addition.
Public: Pig's Blood Popsicle with Tomato Chili Jam and Toasted Peanuts
If you've been curious about trying a pig's blood dish and are nervously sitting on a fence, chef Brad Farmerie is the man for you. Here he folded in some rice, rice flour, and ground pork in with the pig's blood for a cake that's crispy on the outside and delightfully chewy within, with only a trace of the dark, earthy flavor of blood (which this Portuguese writer happens to adore). The chili jam added sweetness and a touch of smoke, the peanuts an added savory element, and the cilantro finished things off cleanly. It was definitely one of our favorite bites of the evening—after we'd made our rounds, we went back for seconds.
Public: Vegan Summer Roll
To compensate for the extreme ingredient of pig's blood, Chef Brad gave the vegan crowd a summer roll of wild mushrooms, artichokes, and Asian dressing.
Betel: Signature Betel Leaves
The veggie option with cucumber, coriander, red chili, caramelized coconut, pineapple, lychee, and toasted coconut won out over the chicken offering, in our book, which wasn't as dynamic or layered. We loved the different textures of the fruit and toasted coconut and the tiny touch of heat.
Cherrywood Kitchen: East Coast Oysters with Bloody Mary Relish
Chef Chris Cheung uses diver-collected oysters from Righteous Oysters, who ensure that their farmers take care to develop the beds in which the oysters live. His got special treatment with a topper of "Bloody Mary Relish," which boasted a healthy dose of Worcestershire, tomato, tobacco, and horseradish relish, and a vodka-celery foam. It had the slight burn of an awesome Bloody Mary but the cool, clean oyster tempered it well. We wished it were Sunday so we could down a dozen.
Morimoto: Eel and Foie Gras Steamed Buns
The veggies were crisp, the ginger dressing was bright and rich, and the eel was cooked really well. Two of us couldn't shut up about them, seriously.
Hakkasan: Poached Peking Dumpling
A sweet and spicy kick, this dumpling had a perfectly just-firm texture and a surprising freshness.
Kittichai: Hot and Sour Clam Soup with turmeric, king oyster mushrooms and dill
This is the kind of soup you crave when the world is all topsy-turvy and you need some major comfort. The mushrooms retained a good level of firmness, the ample amount of dill provided some serious freshness, and the slight heat of the broth poured on the just-open clams rounded out everything in a super-cravable way.
Mehtaphor: Tamarind-Glazed Pineapple and Chicken Satay
We're big fans of Chef Jehangir Mehta, and his sweet and smoky, chewy, fatty satay reminded us why. It's a comfort food you could eat a full order of.
Bistro La Promenade: Kampachi Crudo with Mango Chutney, Avocado, Soy-lime-sesame Vinaigrette
Chef Alain Allegretti hand slices his kampachi (which is a mild fish in the tuna family and on par with yellowfin), then layers it with an intense vinaigrette and a balancing sweet chutney. This was a very clean, bright dish.
Perry Street: Pan-Seared Shrimp with Jade Sauce, Asparagus and Market Greens
Congratulations to Perry Street for reopening last month after six feet of water drowned their kitchen during Hurricane Sandy. And it's lucky for us that they are, because we're ready to run in for the menu sister of this tasting plate, which was one of our favorites of the evening. The shrimp was seared to a perfect crisp while being cooked to just the right point on the inside, the asparagus was meaty and fresh and the jade sauce—which Chef Cedric Vongeritchen says contains over twenty ingredients including coconut, lemongrass, and makrud lime—added some sweetness to balance the heat.
Toy: Crispy Taro and Turnip Cake with Ma La Pork
"Ma" translates into something along the lines of "that tingling sensation you get in your mouth" and "La" in Chinese means spicy. "So it's tingly and spicy," according to Chef Doron Wong. This really savory, rich dish had pork that melted on the tongue and a chewy, crispy taro cake that was incredibly satisfying to pull apart.
Ngam: Pomelo Salad, Papaya Salad
There's something so satisfying about shredded fresh green papaya tossed with just a little garlic and chili powder. And while that salad was definitely a refreshing bite, we were more on board with the Pomelo Salad, which was sweet, spicy, and cool all together.
Zengo: House-Ground Meatball
With tomato makrud lime and cotija cheese, it was a sweeter, elevated take on a classic Italian meatball in red sauce that we loved.
Chef Andy Yang blew us out of the water with both of these dishes, which we agreed were the most layered and progressively flavored of the evening, and a definite favorite. The tuna belly was given some sweetness from caramelized palm sugar, toasted coconut, and crispy shallots, and the salty cup gave a satisfying crunch at the end.
Chef Andy cooked the pork belly sous vide for 36 hours before stir frying it at high heat in a wok with some chili paste and rendered pork fat. First we got the really rich belly, then some smoke, then the sweetness of peanuts, then some heat, then the cooling sensation from the cucumber cup, all flavors that lingered very well.
Buddakan: Tuna Tartare Spring Rolls
Tossed with shallots and ponzu, it was a solid tartare with a delicious crunch.
Sakamai: Roasted duck Marinated with Ginger, Soy, Lardo Iberico, deBellota, and Foie Gras Mayo
The duck was cooked really well to a soft, lean finish and the ginger/soy marinade came through clearly. There was a tad too much mayo involved for our liking, but overall it was a really stellar appetizer option that was in our Top 4.
Spot Dessert Bar: Matcha Asuki: Green Tea Mousse with Red Bean Filling and Green Tea Ice Cream
We were dragged over to this table by very happy eaters, and agreed that the layers of this fun little cup (green tea sponge cake with red bean filling, mascarpone cream, green tea mousse, red bean paste and green tea ice cream) balanced well and were the fitting topper for our very full evening of amazing eats.