If you’ve been to any of the restaurants under the Three Kings Restaurant Group umbrella – Talde and Massoni – you probably already know that the group’s visionary chef, Dale Talde, isn’t afraid to use big, bold flavors and to turn Asian (or Italian, at Massoni) cuisine on its head. That’s exactly what he’s doing with business partners David Massoni and John Bush, along with executive chef Jae Lee, at his newest creation, Rice & Gold, which opened in September inside Chinatown’s new Hotel 50 Bowery.
The space is absolutely massive, with an 11-seat bar, an open kitchen, and 180 seats in booths and banquettes, a long communal table, and four-tops. Walls are dominated by massive street art-style murals, and there’s a mildly industrial vibe thanks to exposed ductwork and concrete pillars. Setting foot inside the restaurant, which is located right at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, your first impression is that this place is ready to party, and that you should be, too.
Rice and Gold is ostensibly Asian-American, but Talde draws his culinary influences here from all over the map: Mexico, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Spain, China, Iran, Jamaica, India. These influences don’t arbitrarily work their way into dishes just because they can, though, and one look at the expansive menu makes that clear. Dim sum offerings include buns (filled with five spice roast pork or Carolina-style BBQ lamb); a lobster egg roll with cabbage and lemon-chili sauce; shrimp and bacon shumai topped with Benton’s ham, red eye soy, and grainy mustard; and pho-filled soup dumplings with holy basil, shaved red onions, and pickled chili. Appetizers include crispy papaya salad with tamarind chili, watermelon, peanuts, and herbs; octopus skewers with shiso verde, crispy potato, and lime; and pork belly skewers with miso-date caramel and smoked pickled daikon. Noodles include pho with dry aged striploin and bone marrow; fideos with chorizo, clams, mussels, smoked paprika dashi, and shiso green goddess; and pancit palabok with temomi noodles, Dungeness crab gravy, smoked trout roe, quail egg, and chicharron. Rice dishes include Thai-style fried chicken with dirty rice, pickled chili, egg, and kaffir lime peanuts and lobster fried rice with XO butter, Old Bay, egg, crispy potato, and lemon. Entrees to share include grilled lobster with sticky rice, tamarind brown butter, lemon, and roasted seaweed; tandoori beef rib with grilled escarole and spiced honey; a whole roast jerk duck; and golden chicken with Persian rice, shishitos, fets dates, white sauce, and red sauce (Talde’s spin on traditional Halal chicken and rice).
Obviously, there’s a lot to unpack in this menu, and I look forward to working my way through it in the months to come (which I will definitely be doing). For my first visit, however, I sampled a few dim sum items (pork buns, shumai, and soup dumplings), lobster fried rice, and the tandoori beef rib.
The pork buns, which I noticed being brought to just about every table, more closely resembled biscuits than traditional buns, and were tender and flaky, filled with slow-cooked Chinese-style pork and topped with a sugar crust (Needless to say, they’re a must-order).
The shumai were filled with ground bacon and chunks of shrimp, with the porky notes highlighted by slices of high-quality country ham. The addition of mustard was a wise touch, as was the choice to serve it in a pool of umami-rich red eye gravy with a dose of soy sauce.
The soup dumplings were stellar, sealed up with a ball of ground pork and unctuous soup redolent with star anise and other warming spices inside. The lobster fried rice was addictively tasty, loaded with generous chunks of lobster and just a hint of that familiar Old Bay flavor.
And the Indian-style beef rib (which Talde admitted was “slightly blasphemous”) is marinated in yogurt and tandoori spices, slowly roasted for hours, and served in four big hunks with grilled kimchi-seasoned escarole, thinly sliced persimmon, and a sweet-savory glaze. I think it’s safe to say that there’s no other beef dish like it anywhere.
Cocktails from partner John Bush are as wildly creative as the rest of the menu. We sampled the Bondi Kelly (white rum, Luxardo maraschino, lime, and charred pineapple); Miranda’s Right (rye, Montenegro, triple sec, and chocolate bitters); Bright Lights (Absolut Elyx, cranberry, mint, and citrus); and Micky’s Business (Ford’s gin, Carpano Antica, Campari, ginger, and mint), and found them to be well-balanced, inspired, and worthy of a visit to the bar in their own right.
After your meal, I suggest you hop on the elevator to the top floor to sample even more of Bush’s cocktails; he created a whole separate menu for their rooftop bar, The Crown. Two huge terraces offer some truly stunning 21st-floor views, and the stylish interior design is a complete 180 from downstairs; think white brick walls, deep cream-colored couches, and cushioned leather chairs. Cocktails up here include The Crown Manhattan (Rye, Carpano Antica, Szechuan tincture, and bitters); Mr. Z (12 year rum, orgeat, grapefruit, almond, and chile); East India (gin, Pimm’s, lemongrass, ginger, cucumber, and lime); and Black Dragon Tea (vodka, oolong and green teas, and spiced kalamansi).
Because they’re a part of the hotel, both spaces open up early for breakfast and lunch, and the simple fact that these places exist should be enough to keep the hotel at full capacity. Stay tuned for the opening of a third concept here from Three Kings, called Green Lady, which “will offer guests the perfect option for late night entertainment, including DJ’s, live music, performances and more.”