Creative Asian Fare at Chopstix

Thursday, November 01, 2018

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There's something that food writers often develop called sensory enervation aka palate fatigue. This happens when a person tastes a multitude of comparable products consecutively and gets to the point of being, as the kids say, “over it”. This can happen at coffee cuppings, wine tastings and themed food festivals. However, the alchemy that was combined to produce the 2018 Jamaica Food & Drink Festival event Chopstix was pure magic. Instead of growing tired of the same flavour profile, patrons' taste buds experienced a slew of vibrant Asian dishes “with a twist”.

The event held on Wednesday, October 24, at the Zen Lawns of Hope Zoo had something to satisfy even the most discerning of palates. Sora Japanese had double dragon roll platters. Nirvanna Indian Fusion Cuisine delighted patrons with Aftabi chicken wrapped in Roomali roti and as a bonus, there was tandoori chicken and chicken tikka. Mystic Thai had a Thai red curry salmon and perfectly cooked jasmine rice. As quickly as Michelle Smith of Chocolate Dreams placed Japanese cheesecake in chocolate cups on display they disappeared. However, this allowed guests to be equally wowed by her white chocolate bark with pistachios walnuts and almonds and boozy mini chocolate cupcakes. Brian Laman of Nomad Treats, too, had sweet offerings in the form of lychee cakes, mango pudding and fantastic matcha brigadeiros. Brigadeiros are a Brazilian candy made from condensed milk; however, they got an Asian baptism with Japanese matcha that made these tiny balls astounding.

Leave it to top-quality seafood purveyor Rainforest Seafoods to dispatch two chefs, and secure the largest pavillion. Sushi master chef Eliseo “Oggie” Caliguia presented spectacular sushi boats and Evrol Ebanks did a number of warm dishes, including panko and five-spice crusted lobster chunks and a knockout veggie stirfry. Yes, Thursday Food got excited for a veggie stir-fry. When executed perfectly the simplest things bring the most joy.

Tamarind Restaurant's crispy shrimp cooked with nutmeg curry paste (yes, there's such a thing) and basil served on a rice cracker had a great texture and was a beautiful bite. Allison Porter-Smalling took patrons to Vietnam with her bn cha with lemongrass beef and fresh summer rolls. Db-Ann Chen also allowed guests to experience a less ubiquitous Asian cuisine — Korean — with kkanpung saeu, sweet and spicy shrimp, ssam barbecue grilled pork and bacon lettuce wraps.

Lorraine Fung enjoyed the longest lines of the night, and her extremely addictive sweet Oriental pork belly with veggie noodles were to blame. National Bakery featuring Christian Sweeney came in a close second with the crowd-pleasing steamed Hardo bao with cabbage slaw and crispy chicken or shrimp.

Cayman-based chef Dylan Benoit offered tuna tataki with sticky rice and Japanese radish (daikon) salsa. Thursday Food reckons that chef Benoit had a former career as a gymnast because what else could explain his agility, deft movements and ability to perform for the numerous cameras at his station without breaking focus? His dish was, in a word, exceptional.

To wash down all this delicious food Chopstix patrons could visit either of two Barcode-staffed bars stocked with Stolichnaya vodka, Appleton rum, Heineken, Tru-Juice, a variety of chasers and Welch's sparkling grape juices. And for those who preferred ice-cold water, there were numerous troughs containing bottles of WATA placed throughout the event. The Chopstix event planners thought of everything.

Over 700 patrons enjoyed the offerings of Chopstix's 13 chefs. And night three of the 2018 Jamaica Food & Drink Festival was four hours of delicious fun.

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