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At The James Beard House, Reclaiming Asian Fusion's Good Name

At The James Beard House, Reclaiming Asian Fusion's Good Name
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The term "Asian fusion" inspires groans among a lot of diners nowadays, evoking as it does the neighborhood place that now serves mediocre sushi and mediocre pad Thai along with mediocre General Tso's chicken, or gruesome and overpriced Hindenburgs of culinary experimentation like the hot pretzel kobe beef tartare at Vandal.

Ah, but throw James Beard House into the conversation and things get a little more interesting. The James Beard Foundation doesn't let just anyone come in and cook at the home of the titan of American cuisine; you've got to be pretty hot property in the culinary world. Then throw Luckyrice into the mix. The traveling festival of Asian and Asian-influenced food and drink was founded in 2010 by entrepreneur/foodie Danielle Chang. It's so well curated, and features such hot and influential chefs, that hundreds of hungry hipsters are compelled to pay top dollar to attend Luckyrice events -- even in New York, home to more innovative and inexpensive Asian restaurants of every stripe than a rational human being could count. That's akin to an Eskimo running a successful ice cube festival at the North Pole.

Add it all up and you've got Spirited Culinary Collisions, the Luckyrice-sponsored James Beard House dinner that's happening this Thursday (June 9). It features the chefs from two of NYC's more high-profile Asian eateries -- Chen Zhi Neng from Hakkasan, and Oscar Toro from Jue Lan Club, which famously occupies the space formerly occupied by the legendary Limelight club. The nice thing about this dinner is that they're not just whipping out a greatest-hits set from their respective restaurants, but also experimenting with new dishes that may or may not wind up as part of their permanent repertoire. So you'll get Toro's well-known prawn and bone marrow dumplings and Neng's crispy duck salad. But you'll also get a Frenchified take on Peking Duck with foie gras and a cognac-hoisin sauce. Or a Wagyu ribeye steak with Chinese fermented black beans. Or a lobster dish with uni, basil and coconut. All in all, there are six hors d'oeuvres, five main courses and a dessert.

Oh, and did I mention drinks? That's the "Spirited" part of Spirited Culinary Collisions. Four cocktails and three sakes, all selected by the chefs, accompany the dishes. The cocktails, featuring Jay-Z's own D'usse Cognac, Bombay Sapphire gin, and its Asian-influenced sibling, Bombay Sapphire East, run the gamut from classics-with-a-twist like a French 75 with blood orange juice, to the Flower and Stone, an East-meets-West mashup featuring Bombay Sapphire East, mint, yuzu juice, apricot liqueur, strawberry-fennel syrup and rhubarb bitters. The spirits used in the cocktails are also infused into the dishes, which gives new meaning to the term "drink your dinner."

Tickets for the extravaganza are $130, which ain't cheap, but it's actually quite the bargain given how much a dinner at Jue Lan Club or Hakkasan costs, and considering how many courses and drinks are offered for Spirited Culinary Collisions. Plus it's a chance to dine at the James Beard House, which after all was... James Beard's house.

(N.b. I have no affiliation, professional or otherwise, with any of the people, organizations or restaurants mentioned above. I'm just a hungry foodie with a special fondness for dumplings.)