Reference variables on Catalog Items, as opposed to Reference fields on a form, do not show the 'Open Record' link in the corner when the reference popup is displayed.
This is not a bug. It is a design choice made by development to leave off the 'Open Record' link in the popup for a reference variable.
There is the option of setting the system property "glide.ui.clickthrough.popup" to true which will alter the behavior for the reference icon. If you click on the icon, you will be redirected to the reference record instead of being presented with the popup. However, this a system wide change.