Luxury hotel operators might not expect their guests to seek out street food on their properties, but Omni Hotel & Resorts has found out differently.
The 50-property chain runs a Flavors of the World promotion most years, but this year its campaign was Simply Street Food. The promotion, which started in January and was supposed to end this month, has been so successful that Omni has extended it into spring, probably until June.
“This is really taking off. I’m very happy,” said David Morgan, Omni’s vice president of food and beverage. “Our sales in the first two weeks of the program were over $50,000 just in the street food.”
The menu items, available at 30 of Omni’s 50 properties, were developed in a competition with Omni chefs and overseas partners in the Global Hotel Alliance.
“Everyone provided their recipes and we put together a team to taste, and we picked what we saw as the six best recipes,” Morgan said.
Morgan noted that there were parameters in the competition. “Street foods have been on-trend in my mind for a couple of years, and I think people have taken liberties with defining it,” he explained.
The dishes had to be food that actually was eaten on the street, and — with the exception of noodles, which are street food in many countries — had to be items that could be eaten with one hand at the bar. They also needed to be items that could be reproduced consistently in the United States, suitable to the American palate, in a price range that worked. And with all of that, it still had to be authentic street food.
The winning noodle dish was Famous Peddler’s Char Kay Teow, a classic Straits Chinese dish — the Chinese who settled on the Malay Peninsula — submitted by Andy Oh of the Pan Pacific Orchard in Singapore.
“It’s what you’d see in a Chinese restaurant,” said Morgan. “With roast pork, medium to moderate spice, an almost Szechuan flavor, and both a soft and firm texture that I think is an interesting balance.
Chef Moh’d Alla Alaham of the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi won a place on the menu with his Musakhan Sandwich. “It’s a take on Greek Schwarma, served in the same type of bread, with seasoned chicken, vegetables — very authentic in terms of its flavors,” Morgan said.
Also on the menu is a Citrus Ancho Braised Lamb Tostada, the winning entry of chef Scott Mole of the Omni Bedford Springs in Pittsburgh. “It’s a larger [corn] tostada filled with braised lamb, except it’s rolled, almost like an empanada,” Morgan said.
Chef Josemar Passos of the Tivoli Ecoresort Praia de Forte in Bahia, Brazil, won with his Acarajé de Orixá — fritters of black-eyed peas and shrimp paste topped with fresh shrimp. “The chef that did this dish couldn’t have been nicer,” Morgan said. “He said the genesis of this dish is really from Nigeria, but it’s a street food sold in Brazil.”
Chef Gene Moss of the Omni Mansion in San Antonio used a bit of a high-end twist for his winning submission: a duck empanada with smoked tomato mayonnaise. “But it’s a very traditional empanada,” Morgan said. “I think what makes it interesting is the tomato vinaigrette, which is sweet and yet smoky. It has a great flavor profile.”
The best selling item, however, is the Short Rib and Vermont Cheddar Sandwich, submitted by Gerard Tice of the Omni Parker House in Boston, where Parker House rolls were invented. “It’s on thick-cut brioche with great Cheddar cheese and short ribs,” Morgan said.
Prices of the dishes vary by location.
Morgan said the new items aren’t served in ceramic or glass dishes, but on serviceware that best represents and feels like street food: bamboo cups and plates. “That provides more of an authentic experience for the customer,” he said.
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