February reliably brings celebrations honoring the Chinese New Year and this new year, honoring the Year of the Dog, is no different. Around the country at restaurants that serve up Chinese, Asian, and American flavors, this is a chance to proudly showcase iconic and nouvelle dishes that cast an eye to the Chinese flavors that hail from around the globe yet are also distinctly American. Once a year treats, special drinks, and menu selections are yours for the eating and the luck. Some new year specials endure for just one night, while others last a weekend, a week, or the entire month. All that’s left to decide is which level of flavor and fun is right for you.
Sunda, Chicago, Illinois
Chinese New Year is not only celebrated in China but around the world. Countries throughout Asia celebrate Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival. At Sunda, the menu normally pulls in flavors from across the region, but the New Year menu dives into the traditional dishes and singular flavors of China. A week of festivities kicks off with a dragon dance performance and the celebratory menu runs through February 21. The special menu includes Szechuan Beef made with bone-in filet mignon and seasoned with, chilies, scallions, and crispy glass noodles, and char siu pork bao, served taco-style with spice marinated roast pork topped with scallions, pickled carrots, and cucumber all folded into the bao. Order any item on the special Chinese New Year menu and receive a lucky red envelope. Not only does every envelope contain a prize, but the grand prize winner receives dinner for two. Now that is an auspicious way to start the new year. Make a reservation at Sunda.
China Live, San Francisco, California
A long table made of reclaimed Chinese elm is the centerpiece of China Live’s marketplace restaurant and is ample enough to seat the biggest of families. The vibe is relaxed here, a fun and open setting to experience – and experiment with – the modern interpretations of chef George Chen. Available for the month of February, dishes that exemplify modern Chinese gastronomy are at the heart of the New Year menu and appeal to a wide range of palates and Asian food enthusiasts. Happy Family sticky rice noodles and red cooked “Lionshead” meatballs in a clay pot are instantly familiar to newbie gastronomes of all ages while crispy sizzling whole sea bass with ginger and fermented black beans, chrysanthemum ten-ingredient salad, or “Eight Treasure” rice porridge appeal to experienced Asian flavor seekers. Warm ginger-infused milk is an elixir that wraps a mid-winter meal of pure comfort in a fuzzy blanket of happiness before sending you on your way. Make a reservation at China Live.
Hakkasan, Las Vegas, Nevada
Dark oak latticework frames warmly lit deep blue banquettes that are easy to sink into at Michelin-starred Hakkasan Las Vegas. During the month that spans Chinese New Year, those banquettes are perfect for lingering with friends and family over the imaginative menu created by executive head chef Tong Chee Hwee to celebrate the Year of the Dog. The multi-course menu, available through February 28, includes ingredients believed to bring good luck and prosperity in the new year. That means braised beef tongue with caramelized walnuts, asparagus, and mint and crispy scallop in sweet plum sauce with mango in a golden cup. Though there is no official word on how much prosperity to expect from eating seafood, no celebratory new year’s meal would be complete without fish, an ingredient said to boost prosperity. Look for baked Chilean sea bass with kumquat glaze and abalone fried rice in bean curd wrap with Chinese sausage and shiitake mushroom, a dish of double fortune for its fai cai (fat choy), or ‘get rich and grow wealth.’ Before leaving Hakkasan, hang a wish-laden red ribbon on the latticework (a modern idea of a traditional wishing tree), and you will leave rich in food, that is for sure. Make a reservation at Hakkasan Las Vegas.
Mr. Chow, Miami, Florida
The grand, 123-foot gold leaf and crystal chandelier above the main dining room is certainly eye-catching and is just part of what makes Mr. Chow’s Miami location iconic. The other may be eating Chinese favorites on the beach. Located inside the W Hotel on Miami’s South Beach, Mr. Chow’s fans flock here for the crispy duck and for the new year, guests are rewarded with a semi prix-fixe menu of new year-only dishes from celebrated chef Hing Fung Matt Chan. Served family-style, indoors or on the patio, are dishes such as glazed prawns with walnuts, chicken satay, and little dragon soup dumplings. An optional beverage pairing (choose cocktails or champagne) turns this meal into the event of the season. Make a reservation at Mr. Chow Miami.
Buddakan, New York, New York
Wood walls, carved chandeliers, and a gilded library give Buddakan an air of comfortable opulence. On February 18, ring in the Year of the Dog with a dim sum brunch. Dumplings are the star here and range from edamame dumplings with a Sauternes-shallot broth to foie gras and chicken in a delicate lemongrass consommé. On the less traditional side, crispy cauliflower lollipops are laced with truffle and cheese while Dungeness crab toast marries the subtle taste of crab with the soothing flavors of a miso-cured egg and trout roe. Linger a bit longer to see performances from Luen Hing Lion dancers and DJ Timka, and do not forget to secure a red envelope upon departure. It is another symbol of the year’s good luck. Make a reservation at Buddakan NYC.
Molly Woo’s, Columbus, Ohio
A pan-Asian bistro like Molly Woo’s is the perfect place to honor the Year of the Dog. From February 16 through March 2, a special three-course menu celebrates the diverse flavors of the region. Kick things off with a Luck of the Grape cocktail. Made with muddled grapes and a touch of Cointreau and cranberry, it is the perfect partner for soft-shell crab- stuffed red lantern roll or shrimp and lobster fried rice. The regular menu is also available during the festivities, but for the Chinese lion dance celebration on February 26, a prix-fixe, three-course meal of dim sum, your choice of entrée, and warm doughnuts with chocolate ganache celebrates what is best about Chinese and American food. Make a reservation at Molly Woo’s.