As the sun began to set in the west, thoughts turned to the east at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Partygoers hungry for one last taste of topnotch food entered the giant white party tent for one final event before the 15th anniversary of the annual soiree ended.
Lucky Chopsticks was a new event. Hosted by writer/television personality/adventuresome eater Andrew Zimmern, the party proved that, maybe for the first time, South Florida has a host of delicious and interesting restaurants serving authentic and innovative Asian-inspired dishes.
More than two dozen restaurants — including Finka Table & Tap, Ichimi, Jaya at the Setai, Katsuya, Bazi, Blackbrick, Makoto, Talde Miami Beach, NaiYaRa, Mr. Chow, Temple Street Eatery, and Palate Party — served favorite bites such as dumplings, sushi, tiny take-out containers of noodles, and Asian-inspired tacos.
Guests were also treated to a first taste of Sarsaparilla Club, Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis' upcoming restaurant at the Shelborne Wyndham Grand Hotel in South Beach. The duo served a carrot-and-beet tartare on root chips, which will be featured on the restaurant's menu.
One establishment new to Miami that missed the mark was Da Tang Unique. The Brickell restaurant was a no-show at Lucky Chopsticks, missing out on a way to introduce itself to local foodies.
Zimmern not only hosted but also presented a dish from his pop-up restaurant Lucky Cricket. Though the name (and his reputation) suggested otherwise, the little containers contained cold sesame noodles free of Pinocchio's magical sidekick.
Plenty of sake flowed, poured by Miami's favorite cantinero-turned-ninja Julio Cabrera.
NaiYaRa's Chef Bee was in fine spirits, serving his neau dade deaw — beef jerky seasoned with coriander on a bed of Burmese sticky rice.
Eileen Andrade of Finka Table & Tap served Korean fried chicken drumsticks that were sweet, spicy, and altogether satisfying.
Ichimi's executive chef, Constantine De Lucia, opting to leave his ramen-making machine in Coral Gables, presented an uni taco for his dish.
The entire Talde Miami Beach team worked the event, with chef Dale Talde making thousands of portions of chilled noodles topped with caviar, while partner David Massoni served the crowd.
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Michael Pirolo and Jen Chaefsky's short-rib chow fun was so popular the duo had to call for reinforcements from Bazi to sate the crowd. Luckily, their restaurant was only a few blocks away.
In all, this new event was a much-needed addition to the SOBEWFF roster. A trip through the tangy, spicy, sweet, and savory range of flavors at this Asian night market on SoBe's sands was a welcome departure into the exotic before falling into a blissful food coma.