Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hello Kitty

Give me your hungry, your thirsty, your spontaneous.

At least that's what I was looking for come afternoon when I saw that there was going to be a Fast & Furious pop-up at the Roosevelt tonight. The chefs - Bobo Catoe and Craig Perkinson - work at Southbound but instead of southern, they'd be riffing on Asian street food.

Remember when you could swing a dead cat in this town without hitting a purveyor of Asian street food? That memory continues to get dimmer and dimmer, not that I'm complaining given the extroverted flavors and low cost that come standard with the cuisine.

And because they'd be setting up shop at the Roosevelt, aka Richmond mixology central, there'd be a special cocktail menu. That told me which friend to invite and he was immediately on board and enthusiastic. Knowing it was going to be popular and they'd surely run out of food items, I asked him to meet me there right at 5 when the pop-up was due to lift off.

This was not the time to be fashionably late, not that either of us are the tardy type.

Even so, there was already a line and I recognized several bartenders. By the time the doors opened and we made it inside, every bar stool had a butt in it. By 5:10, every table was occupied.

Wow, it must be nice to be so popular.

I'd donned a blue Hawaiian print dress and polka dot flip flops for the occasion, but was clearly bested by the guy in the shirt with tiny palm trees all over it. Or perhaps by the woman in a long blue and yellow print dress with a see-through band around the knees for ventilation, kind of a screen door effect.

Our evening kicked off with Shanghai Sours - who knew I'd enjoy a bourbon cocktail so much? - laden with plum wine, yuzu and 5-spice powder and served in coupes like we were Nick and Nora Charles minus the dog.

We shared a drink called Our Fog Cutter, wise, we decided, given that it had multiple spirits - rums, brandy, gin and sherry - and exotic fruit (our best guess was yuzu and papaya), only to find that it was beautifully balanced. A cocktail connoisseur friend observed that it was the kind of cocktail you'd suck back multiples of, only to find out you were suddenly loopy. One was enough for us, although we didn't hesitate to put our own spin on it by muddling the mint sprig garnish to add another layer of complexity.

Sometimes it's okay to play with your food.

Our final share probably should have been our first given its light, refreshing qualities. The gorgeous orange Chuhai blended the distilled rice beverage Shochu with mandarin soda and citrus, an ideal sipper on a hot day.

Despite a full dining room, people kept arriving and I spotted my newly unemployed (by choice, mind you) foodie friends joining the queue to wait for someplace to park their backsides.

I was surprised to see that one thing my friend is doing with all his extra hours is growing a beard, which proves that just because a person has an abundance of free time doesn't mean he wants to spend it with a razor in hand. Or perhaps he's joining the bearded hipster movement. Not likely.

Focused on food, I waved and went back to eating.

No doubt about it, my partner-in-crime was enjoying himself as much as I was as we ate through the Fast and Furious menu, from panko and spice-coated street corn to the Vietnamese pancakes Bahn Xeo laden with pickled shrimp, which we rolled up and ate like tacos.

Equally seduced by the lamb and the ramps, my friend did most (but not all) of the damage on lamb bulgogi with ramp kimchi, especially savoring the heat on the finish. I was the one who plowed through most of the crab salad, piling it high on rice crackers, while we shared to-die-for steam buns with crispy duck.

Oh, I'd come with the right friend all right. Returning from the loo, he was already halfway through a dish of obscenely creamy red bean ice cream, a wise move given the damage I can do with a spoon. We had a brief should-we moment when we saw a nearby table devouring a teacake with citrus frosting, but four drinks, six dishes and dessert answered that question for us.

Namely, we'll make up for it at their next pop-up.

In the meantime, how great is it to lose yourself in a novel experience and be back on the street in time to have a full evening elsewhere?

There's no shame in being satisfied by sunset.

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