With a line of excited guests expaning down along the block of 44th street in New York’s Manhattan Midtown, there was no doubt that the NYC Wine and Food Festival event “Rockin Dumplings and Rollin Sushi” — hosted by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto — was a sought out event. The late-night party was held at the prestigious Harvard House, that with its sophisticated, aristocratic décor of dark wood, chandeliers, and walls filled with taxidermy and paintings of old Harvard House members, set an interesting scene for the lively party. With over 19 chefs showcasing bites of food — sushi and dumplings — from their restaurants, the big open “ballroom” was quickly slam-packed with eager tasters.
Upon entering the festival, the lobby leading to the main tasting room was pleasantly empty, and it seemed like a good plan to start with what was offered – dessert. To begin a night filled with delicious offerings of quality bites of sushi and dumplings with about a dozen mini desserts might in retrospective have been quite the odd choice, but as Ming Tsai himself said, “There is no wrong way as long as you enjoy the party.”
Jacques Torres and Dessert Chefs from Morimoto’s New York restaurant had set up dessert stands offering a wide array of chocolates, green-tea chocolate covered strawberries, wasabi raspberry macarons an much, much, more. Jacques Torres himself was excited for the night, and said he couldn’t wait to walk the rounds and taste all the great food offered. “I went to Burger Bash earlier today,” Torres said. “But this is definitely my favorite event of the whole festival.”
Some of the chefs serving food at the walk-around tasting event included Leah Cohen from Pig & Khao, Jose Garces, Koji Kagawa from SUSHISAMBA, Todd Mitgang from Crave Fishbar, Kerry Heffernan from 15 CPW, and of course Manabu Inoue and his crew from Morimoto NYC, and Ming Tsai from Blue Ginger – who was one of the main chefs entertaining guest at his food stall and around the party room.
Masharu Morimoto himself seemed to enjoy the event, hanging out with Guy Fieri, Robert Irvine, and Ming Tsai. The group of chefs posed for many flashing iPhone cameras and Morimoto himself was eager to share his and his fellow chef’s group-photos on Instagram.
Though the most sought-out food seemed to be the selection of sushi and dumplings served at Morimoto’s food stand, which also definitely was the biggest with over five chefs working on assembling the dishes and cutting up the fresh whole fish, I found myself going back to a few other food-stalls for their excellent bite-sized foods. Some of the dishes that really “rocked my world” included a lightly cooked scallop, served in-shell and topped with pine nuts and a spicy paste, served by Alex Raij from Txikito, and Kerry Heffernan’s raw oyster and striped bass sashimi. “I caught the fish myself, yesterday up in Montauk!” Chef Heffernan proudly announced, taking out his phone to show a picture of him holding a massive striped bass.
Besides eating and drinking, the event was clearly about having fun, music and yes, karaoke. One hour into the event a karaoke stage was opened in the room next to the tasting stalls, but though Morimoto announced on his webpage how much he loves singing, this year, he did not step up on stage. Guy Fieri did, and so did Robert Irvine, and soon the whole room was singing along to the classic song “Sweet Home Alabama.” When asked if Morimoto might step on stage later, he seemed doubtful, and more eager about an after party that apparently was to take place. “I’m going to this!” he said, pulling out a black card with “Ming Tsai After party” printed on it in bold white captions.
As the night went on, the after party seemed to be the one thing on the mind of most chefs. When asked what chef Heffernan thoughts on the event, he said to really have enjoyed it, but had no plans on singing karaoke. He did though, seem curious about what was going on after the “rockin sushi” event was all over, mentioning knowing of some sort of after party. Ming Tsai himself, who according to Morimoto’s black business card was the host of the upcoming late-night festivities, was eager to entertain guests and talk to anybody and everybody, but kept quiet about a possible after party until the last minute. “Come to this party,” he said, secretly handing over a black business card.
For guests, the night seemed to have been a success, filled with some great food, drinks, music, and celebrity chef karaoke. For the chefs, it seemed to have been a fun night as well, but the real party was yet to come, for those with the black card…