Thursday, December 13, 2007

Playing with Rickshaw

December 13

“Kenny, how long has it been since I’ve seen you? Have you gotten taller? Have you grown a beard? How are you?”
It’s possible that I haven’t seen Kenny Lao in eight months, which is a crime. He’s smart, entertaining, and worth spending time with. However he’s also the managing partner of Rickshaw Dumpling Bar and has spent a good chunk of the past eight months getting his second unit open. The original restaurant is on 23rd Street in Chelsea. The new one, near NYU, is on 8th.
I received invitations yesterday to check out several restaurants. One seemed particularly uninteresting but I thought it might amuse Kenny, and so I sent the e-mail that started with the words in quotes above, followed by an invitation to dinner.
Kenny ignored the dinner invitation, but wrote:
”Haven't seen you in so long!
“You should come to rickshaw holiday party tonight at 8th street store. Double the employees double the fun.”
So I went.
I think it was my third Rickshaw holiday party. Kenny had not gotten taller nor grown a beard. He claims he'd lost weight with the restaurant opening, which would be bad since he doesn’t have any body fat to speak of. He paused between serving his staff to gobble down a plate of chicken and rice from Chipotle, which catered the party. Or maybe he had grilled steak and rice. Those were the choices. He said he’d had La Esquina cater the party, but he was joking.
One of Chipotle’s 20 or so New York units is next to the 8th Street Rickshaw, and Kenny met Chipotle’s president, Steve Ells, one day when Steve was cleaning the front of his not-yet-open restaurant. They apparently hit it off.
Anyway, the party was fun. I met a member of the family that owns the Chinese restaurant Pig Heaven who insisted I check it out, so I will someday, and I enjoyed the staff puppet show, which depicted a typical dumpling-ordering experience at the new restaurant.
Apparently, NYU students who patronize Rickshaw are significantly more self-obsessed and ignorant than the Chelsea customers at the Rickshaw there. They also don’t all eat lunch at the same time, so there’s less of a lunch rush, but steadier business and also more evening business. No surprises there.

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