This Week’s NY Happenings: LUCKYRICE, Taste Of The Nation, Manon

NOW: The Mother Of All Rice Fests Returns
LUCKYRICE is back in New York and ready to celebrate all things Asian with a superstar lineup. Tonight is the kickoff, with Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese, and it’s already sold out. Fortunately other tickets remain, as the festival tours through ramen with Chuko, Filipino food with Umi Nom, and a cabana night market at The Maritime Hotel. On Thursday night the focus shifts to “chef cocktails.” Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto hosts while luminaries from Experimental Cocktail Club, Macao Trading Co., and his own Tribeca Canvas put Asian accents on some very fine sips.

LUCKYRICE kicks off tonight, April 29th. Cocktail Feast: A Journey East starts at 8pm on Thursday, May 2nd, at The Bowery Hotel (335 Bowery, East Village). Tickets for the cocktails are $40. To learn more aboutt he hotel, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides. Photo by Parliament of Owls.

NOW: Taste Of The Nation
Seventy of the city’s best bars and restaurants will all be in one place tonight as the 26th annual Taste of the Nation goes off at 82MERCER. Players like ACME, Pouring Ribbons, and The Dead Rabbit are only the beginning, and all proceeds go to fighting childhood hunger.

Taste of the Nation starts at 7:30pm on Thursday, April 25th, at 82MERCER (82 Mercer St., Soho). General admission tickets are $225 ($185 is tax-deductible). To learn more about the event space, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

WEDNESDAY: Manon Opens In Meatpacking
Moscow’s Cafe Pushkin peeps take another stab at NYC with glossy Meatpacking triplex Manon. The kitchen is run by a former Public hand, working up seasonal ingredients with international accents. Industrial ironwork meets chandeliers on the glossy interior. Opulence, it has it.

Manon (407 W. 14th St., Meatpacking District) opens Wednesday, May 1st. To learn more about the restaurant and lounge, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

Know every inch of this city by checking out BlackBook’s NY City Guides, & signing up for the weekly BlackBook Happenings email. 

Get Lucky In NYC Every Night Next Week

This is not false advertising. Starting Monday, April 29th, you can get lucky every night of the week, which is a basically impossible feat in NYC (unless you’re a 21-year-old, freckle-faced, college girl majoring in English, with too many evenings free and lots of insecurity issues). For seven days, you can drink unlimited Bombay Sapphire East Gin cocktails with lemongrass and St. Germain mixed by Iron Chef Morimoto, dance to house tunes spun by scruffy, downtown DJs, and gorge on pinched, pillowy, lamb-filled dumplings made by Mission Chinese Food chef Danny Bowien. And while you’re at it, get lucky with any one you meet. The cause: LUCKYRICE, the 4th annual festival honoring all things Asian (that you can chew and sip) all across NYC.

Some stops along the way include a cocktail feast at The Bowery Hotel lead by eight of NYC’s top bartenders and Iron Chef Morimoto, a “Filipino Fiesta” at The James Beard House hosted by chef Leah Cohen of Pig & Khao (which boasts a BlackBook-obsessed, delicious brunch), and a Night Market at The Maritime Hotel, where 20 Asian spots serve their top dishes in bohemian cabanas à la the chaotic, night market experience in Asia.

Intrigued? Excited? Hungry? Then snatch up the last couple of tickets to LUCKYRICE. 

And (ahem), please tweet at me if you get lucky, thanks. 

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Mission Accomplished: Danny Bowien’s Chinese Food Wins in New York

As I chow on last night’s leftovers, my mouth tingles in memory of chef Danny Bowien’s Sichuan pepper-heavy dishes that he serves at the new Mission Chinese Food on the Lower East Side. Now, here is a man who not only knows how to play with traditional Asian spices, but has also figured out a way to make take-out Chinese hip. But don’t tell him that. “A lot of people have labeled us that way, but we are working away from that,” the long-haired chef says. “We are tying to make something at appeals to us, and is something we want to go to our day off.”

Bowien first made the scene with his original Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco, which he opened in 2010 inside a dingy Chinese restaurant. Since then, the quaint joint has caused quite a commotion in the foodie scene as Bowien has won not only an Eater Award, but also a page in GQ and an appearance on The Martha Stewart Show. And how do New Yorkers take this young upstart’s move to the East Coast?

“Tonight is the slowest it’s been since we opened last week,” the hostess told us after explaining that on Tuesday night there was a 45-minute wait for three people. “There have been lines waiting for us when we open at five.” Luckily, they kindly offer a complementary Narragansett, which hungry patrons eagerly tapped from the keg sitting under the neon menu board.

“This is crazy, the overall reception, this just doesn’t happen and I feel very blessed,” says Bowien. “Overall, chefs and cooks have been so overly supportive, which is a big deal since I had never opened my own restaurant, let alone one in New York City.”

The menu remains nearly the same as the west coast one, with easily recognizable Chinese items like the dish that started Bowien on the path of Chinese food, tongue numbing mapo tofu. Funny enough, before his San Francisco restaurant, Bowien, who is a Korean from Oklahoma, had never cooked Chinese food before. “It’s not like rocket science, it’s like cooking.,” he says. “If you can make a slow cooked meat sauce, that’s petty much what mapo tofu is. You kind of just plug these ingredients in and make it.”

About his move east, Bowien told the New York Times in February, “We could have opened another one here in San Francisco, but I love New York, the way it pushes you. It inspires me so I wanted to come to New York.” Now, Bowien jets between coasts and, in two short years, has gone from a fine dining cook to restaurateur making waves. Enough waves, that opening week Daniel Boulud popped in and in and whipped up an omelet, which you can watch below. This sense of support and camaraderie blew Bowien away, especially since it’s exactly what he is going for.

“We are trying to create a sense of community here,” says the young chef. “Like two of your favorite bands playing together. It’s not just about one person it’s about a lot of people.”

New York Openings: Mission Chinese and Pok Pok Come East

It says more about New York’s reputation than it slights the West Coast that two beloved Asian outfits, Portland’s Pok Pok and Frisco’s Mission Chinese, have taken their talents eastward. Pok Pok NY, the Thai standout from notably un-Thai chef Andy Ricker (of Vermont), opened last month on the Columbia Street Waterfront (the original Pok Pok will continue its tenure as a Stumptown establishment). Ricker made a soft debut in March with Pok Pok Wing, a dorm room-sized munchie spot on Rivington.

While his new space grew in proportion with the cross-borough move, it will pack in just as close given the steady lines outside. Stuffed hen, crepes with PEI mussels, and a spicy minced pork salad using a recipe inherited from an 84-year-old Thai man are standouts. The entire menu is thoughtfully annotated with hints and recommendations (e.g. Khanom Jiin Naam Ngiew: “Hard to say, easy to eat.”). The dream of Andy Ricker is alive in Brooklyn.
Back on the island of Manhattan, San Francisco’s semi-ironic dive Mission Chinese has opened up a branch on Orchard Street. Maybe chef Danny Bowien wanted more convenient access to his pal Martha Stewart’s studio, or maybe the Food Bank for New York City needed more love—75¢ of each entrée goes to the charity. As Martha notes, Bowien hadn’t cooked Chinese food before starting up at the Frisco shop, but his lamb cheek dumplings, kung pao pastrami, and thrice-cooked bacon with rice cakes don’t report to General Tso anyway. The Twin Peaks-meets-dragon-paraphernalia interior is tight, but it’s open ’til 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, so feel free to stumble in when you’re feeling charitably saucy.
Joan Didion, in an early essay on New York, laments that after her relocation from the West she knew she didn’t belong here because she wasn’t from here. But after spending half her adult life in New York, she’s just as good an example as any that if you can make it here, well. You know.