Friday, August 17, 2012

L.A. Food and Wine's Asian Night Market rocked L.A. Live; Ming Tsai's Dim Sum for beginners

People actually dancing at a tasting event!

Last weekend's L.A. Food and Wine Festival rang in a second successful year headquartered at L.A. Live, though the event's August timing means it's likely that daytime events under the tent can be stifling. As tasting events go, this one is mega-sized -- with dozens of events in Downtown, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica and chefs jetting in from around the country. Organized by the same folks as Pebble Beach Food and Wine, the plethora of sponsors like Lexus, Chase, Marriott and Vegas' Cosmopolitan Hotel gave the event a glitzy, somewhat corporate feel.
Ricardo Zarate's tuna with Asian pesto
But with plenty of coin put into organization, decor and recruiting star power, it's also better run than festivals that exist on leaner budgets. Unlike some of my intrepid blogger brethren, I can't eat and drink all weekend long, so I choose the two Asian-themed events: Friday night's Asian Night Market and Sunday's Dim Sum brunch with Ming Tsai at WP24.
David LeFevre with his green tea soba
Despite the steamy weather, the Asian Night Market, held outdoors at L.A. Live, was lots of fun. I was surprised that a $75 event sold out so quickly, until I saw how much beer, wine, sake and cocktails it was possible to consume in one evening along with a wide selection of Asian-inspired dishes. Several of the chefs were from well-known non-Asian restaurants like Mo-chica and MB Post.
Ming Tsai's flattened shrimp shu mai
This was a contrast with the more populist recent 626 Night Market in Pasadena and its very authentic stinky tofu or the Westside's recent Lucky Rice night market, another recent tasting event with mostly Asian restaurants participating. It was fun to see how some of these restaurants that aren't necessarily known for their Asian food interpreted the theme, like David LeFevre's green tea soba with lotus root and David Myers' chili crab dumplings. I didn't manage to taste everything, but I also loved the Lamill coffee Fluff Ice and dumplings from Yu's Family Kitchen all the way from Chengdu, China.

Ming Tsai's honey glazed bao
Ming Tsai's Dim Sum brunch at WP24 was a more understated affair. I was a little surprised to find frittata, bacon, sausage and croissants served along a small selection of dim sum, with coffee instead of tea. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised since it was an event mainly to reward frequent customers of Marriott and Chase bank, many of whom seemed to have little idea what dim sum was. I'm glad I got to hear Ming Tsai's explanation of why his shu mai are so flat -- blame it on the altitude at the Aspen Food and Wine festival, which resulted in a tastier, sauteed, pancake-style dumpling.
Chicken dan dan dumplings

It might have also been fun to hear Tsai give a talk about his fusionish dim sum -- I guess these were reserved for the events tagged Cooking Demonstrations. In any case, L.A. Food and Wine managed to corral an impressive array of food personalities, and I'll look forward to moving beyond Asia at next year's event.


Food GPS said...

Interesting recap. Agreed that it's fun to see chefs that don't necessarily play to type. Chefs like David LeFevre are talented and have enough range to pull of Asian dishes. Funny to see a muffin in the same frame as bao. Was the dim sum good?

Fork and Whisk said...

That looks like and awesome and delicious night.