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August 1, 2014

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Photos: Eat their lamb, take their love at LuckyRice at Boulevard Pool

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Raku chef Mitsuo Endo works the grill at the Las Vegas incarnation of the LuckyRice food festival Saturday, June 23, 2012 at Cosmopolitan.

2012 LuckyRice at Boulevard Pool

A dish of grilled Kurobata pork cheeks from Raku is seen at the Las Vegas incarnation of the LuckyRice food festival  Saturday, June 23, 2012 at Cosmopolitan. Launch slideshow »

LuckyRice Las Vegas/Christopher Rauschnot @24kMedia on Twitter

Hungry. That’s what I am as I walk into LuckyRice Night Market at the Cosmopolitan’s Boulevard Pool on Saturday. I’m not just eager to taste the work of imported and local chefs, not just excited to try cocktails mixed by masters — I’m actually hungry. And this place smells incredible.

Almost immediately, we join the arms swooping in to grab Anthony Meidenbauer of Holstein’s Thai pork slider and Shirley Chung of China Poblano’s pork belly street sandwich. Then it’s off, sailing past crowds to grab khao soi beef curry (rich coconut cream spiked with pickled veggies, a personal fave) from Lotus of Siam’s booth, then waiting … and waiting … and waiting to make it in front of "Top Chef: Texas" winner Paul Qui.

When the guy next to me asks what he’s serving, Qui explains apologetically that it’s essentially a vegetarian dish, a salad with sunchoke dashi and bottarga caviar. But there’s no need for apologies. The dish is fantastic — a bright break from all the deep fatty meat, with complexity beyond the first bite.

“It tastes like someone was smoking over it,” my friends says as we chow and stroll. “I like it.”

Everywhere, there are people eating, drinking, laughing and waiting in long lines to eat and drink again. The “inaugural” LuckyRice is a delicious success, but it needs more — more chefs, more food, more booths to absorb the crush of hungry festgoers.

We drink sake bombs out of plastic cups in the snaking queue for Wynn alum Jet Tila’s Charleston booth, devouring his short rib tacos and crispy pork belly buns in quick, thankful bites.

Hovering over a small table, we’re joined by a couple from San Diego — pleasant strangers who braved nine hours of chemical spill traffic on I-15 for a weekend in Las Vegas and a visit to LuckyRice. They’re carrying three portions of "Top Chef" Master Susur Lee’s rack of lamb Thailandaise.

As we chat, they offer us one — a beautiful portion of meat topped with two different sauces that they’d clearly taken for themselves. I fall back on polite refusals until I just can’t stand staring at the lamb another second. As we murmur in mouth-full appreciation, I can’t help thinking of a line from Wally Lamb’s "She’s Come Undone": “Accept what people offer. Drink their milkshakes. Take their love.”

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