Serving Modern Asian Wedding Fare – Pan-Asian Wedding Receptions
Wolfgang Puck Catering and PABU offer tantalizing ways to add Asian flair to your wedding fare, plus 5 more California Asian restaurants we love for weddings
At the Forefront of America’s love affair with Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and other cuisines of the Far and Near East, California has also lately begun embracing a fast-growing wedding trend, serving Asian-inspired fare at receptions.
Founded nearly two decades ago by the eponymous chef-owner who first introduced contemporary Asian cuisine to Californians with seminal—and still wildly popular—restaurants like Chinois in Santa Monica and Spago in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, Wolfgang Puck Catering has long embraced this approach. The company specializes in Asian fusion—a marriage of Eastern and Western recipes known for unexpected flavor combinations and boldly colorful presentations. Think ahi tuna wontons with wasabi crème fraîche, or braised Kurobuta pork shoulder in a hot pot with mustard and Chinese eggplant.
“The trend of Asian, and especially Japanese, cuisine at weddings is definitely up-and-coming,” says Jami Pennings, the company’s event sales manager. She believes this is due to the growing popularity of serving food at events in bowls rather than on plates. “That might sound crazy, but it’s one of the newest, hottest trends of 2017–2018: poke, açaí—any DIY item in a bowl. My theory is that when a dish is in a bowl with the ingredients blended together, it lends to a more comforting, hearty dining experience.”
Many couples have already decided on a venue before approaching Puck catering, but the company is also the exclusive caterer at several amazing LA locations, including the El Rey Theatre, Hollywood & Highland, the Pacific Design Center, Sony Pictures Studios, and Greystone Mansion & Park. The Puck team is also happy to help clients find the right location for a memorable Asian-inspired banquet.
A terrific option for San Francisco–area weddings, PABU—which showcases the talents of acclaimed chef and restaurateur Michael Mina and celebrated local sushi chef Ken Tominaga—opened in 2014 and specializes in high-end Japanese izakaya-style cuisine. Akin to tapas, the smaller-portion dishes—such as pork belly skewers, spicy scallop rolls, and wasabi rice crispy treats—are meant to be shared. The format works especially well at weddings. “It’s really unique, as opposed to the usual starter-entrée-dessert approach,” says PABU executive chef Shaun King. Izakaya receptions, he says, feel more like casually sophisticated cocktail parties with passed hors d’oeuvres than old-school sit-down meals. “The food itself is showcased more attractively this way than, say, chicken breast on a plate. I prefer it, and it’s clear that many guests do too.”
“Most of our food is communal,” says King. “We can do small plates individually, but we prefer to place a large platter of food in the middle of each table and let people take their pick.” At a PABU feast, expect big platters of sushi rolls, sashimi, and robatayaki skewers. “They all work really well for a truly special dining experience,” he adds. “We also do a poke chip—a little tuna poke on a wonton topped with pickled ginger and scallions.”
King’s personal favorite wedding dish? Miso Chilean sea bass. “It’s miso-marinated for 72 hours in Saikyo miso, which keeps the fish moist and flavorful throughout longer events.”
PABU takes beverages seriously as well. “Our master of sake can help suggest limited-run sakes that only PABU carries, and Japanese whiskey, too,” he says.
A favorite dessert is the namelaka, which resembles a chocolate custard topped with red-bean gelato, a bit of sesame tuile, and a black sesame cake
Events catered by PABU (415-310-8371) cost from $150 per person, depending on the menu. The restaurant itself, in San Francisco’s Financial District, is also available for full buyouts, starting at $30,000 for a seated dinner with up to 100 guests or a standing reception for up to 250.
Wolfgang Puck Catering Favorites
Wolfgang Puck Catering offers many dishes made famous at Puck’s restaurants. “The Hong Kong salmon, the lamb from Chinois, the Chinese chicken salad—they’re all our staples,” says executive chef Eric Klein, adding that Puck likes to “bring the kitchen to the customer. We don’t do much drop-off food. We can do that, but we prefer to cook for people in front of them.”
He says wedding clients increasingly favor Asian-inspired meals, which often feature Peking duck, bao buns, soup dumplings, and tuna, shrimp, and octopus poke bars. Dim sum carts are also big crowd pleasers. “We make all the dim sum on-site, he adds.”
The Puck crew can also prepare delicious Asian desserts. Two offerings that have been huge wedding hits are Japanese cake pops, and shave ice with sublime flavor combinations, such as lychee, pineapple, and mint.
Wolfgang Puck Catering (323-491-1269), which has a presence in several cities across the country, is headquartered in Los Angeles and works exclusively with several venues in Southern and Central California. Prices for reception and seated dinner start at $150 per person.
Five more California favorites for pan-Asian wedding fare
Le’s Kitchen Catering
Le’s specializes in creative contemporary Asian fare, served as a banquet, buffet, or coursed out. The garlic noodles are legendary. San Francisco
This Silicon Valley notable prepares both traditional and modern Asian cuisine, including stellar sushi. San Jose
Wang’s in the Desert
The gay-beloved eatery (whose gyoza are pictured above) does weddings both on- and off-site, serving fusion favorites like walnut shrimp. Palm Springs
533 Viet Fusion
As the name suggests, Vietnamese fusion is the forte here, including yummy ahi Viet nachos and a wealth of pho options. Palm Springs
This longtime local Japanese fave, which recently received a snazzy makeover, is widely regaled for its sushi and sashimi. Venice Beach
Feature image by Antonio Diaz, courtesy of Wolgang Puck Catering