From London to New York, Chinese fine dining restaurants across the world are getting into the Chinese New Year spirit with special-edition menus and promotions featuring auspicious numbers of courses, updated gourmet versions of traditional holiday dishes, and inventive uses of ingredients with heavy holiday symbolism such as scallops, black moss, duck, orange, peanut, banana, and kumquat.
International restauranteur Hakkasan Group, which owns restaurants across the world in locations including Dubai, San Francisco, Miami, London, Las Vegas, New York, and more, has created its annual Chinese New Year tasting menu available through February 22 featuring traditional Chinese ingredients. Menu items include a double-boiled fresh ginseng and chicken soup with bamboo pith and wolfberry, wok-fried lobster in spicy truffle sauce, wagyu beef with pine nuts in a golden cup, pipa duck, a hericium mushroom stir-fry with lotus root, and asparagus and lily bulb in black pepper.The menu is followed by a a dessert called the “Golden Halo,” a banana and peanut cake with five spice-infused cream, caramel, chocolate, and peanuts topped with an auspicious gold leaf to celebrate one of the main colors of the holiday.
Meanwhile, the 9 Hou (meaning “9 Monkey”) cocktail comes with a golden monkey stirrer and features nine components to represent the monkey’s nine positions on the zodiac, including three-year aged Eldorado rum, sherry, banana liqueur, and guava. Guests will also receive a specially designed golden coin for the holiday, and can take part in holiday celebrations including a lion dance.
In addition to Hakkasan’s London locations, many other Chinese fine dining options in the UK capital are ringing in the holiday with special promotions. Hutong, which features northern Chinese cuisine, is offering a “double happiness” menu with a traditional Lo Hei mixed raw seafood salad featuring salmon, yellow tail, and shredded abalone tossed with vegetables. The Royal China Club is offering a menu with pork belly, tiger prawns in chili sauce, and braised dry oyster with black moss, and guests will receive a special mystery red envelope at the end of their meal.
Additional London high-end restaurants falling under the Hakkasan Group umbrella are also getting in on the Lunar New Year action. The group’s Michelin-starred HKK in London is offering a special eight-course “storytelling” tasting menu that comes in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions. Menu items include a unique take on the traditional prosperity salad that is tossed together by families for the holiday, featuring crispy salmon skin and plum sauce alongside dry oyster rolls with black moss and barbecue pork belly, and a set of soups presented in the shape of yin and yang featuring a supreme crab meat and kumquat soup along with a vegetarian shark-fin soup.
Additional vegetarian options including vegetarian lamb with mala sauce and a vanilla and mandarin dumpling with osmanthus and orange infusion. The menu will culminate with a dessert of green apple parfait, cardamom cake, and crispy apple noodle, as well as an updated take on the “Tray of Togetherness,” a snack tray that Chinese families present to relatives over the holidays, filled with eight different sweets featuring Chinese ingredients such as jasmine tea shortbread and five-spice financiers.
Meanwhile, London Michelin-starred dim sum tea house Yauatcha, also owned by Hakkasan Group, is serving three limited-edition cocktails made with Monkey 47 gin to celebrate the year of the monkey, including the Pomelo Fortune, which is made with grapefruit, cranberry, and mandarin bitters. Menu items will include a Hakka fortune clay pot with meat and seafood and a raw fish salad with scallops, Japanese seaweed, grapefruit, pomegranate, pumpkin, and mushrooms. Its include corresponding patisserie is offering special-edition macaroons inspired by Monkey 47 with flavors such as juniper berry, bitter orange and almond, elderflower and ginger, rose and rosehip, chamomile, and gin and tonic with grapefruit.
From intimate dining venues to nightlife hotspots, New York’s high-end Chinese eateries are also celebrating the holiday. At Greenwich Village spot Annisa, a $140 Chinese New Year tasting menu includes monkey bread with five-flower pork, stir-fried chicken with orange and turnip cake; and caramelized bananas with peanut and coconut ice cream. Asian chain Buddakan, meanwhile, is giving out promotional red envelopes to diners with special coupons.
Not all international venues hit the mark with their Chinese New Year promotions, however. In an afterthought we cringe to mention here, the Jue Lan Club in New York has made the unfortunate decision to pass out customized Chinese New Year fortune cookies—which, of course, have nothing to to do with actual Chinese food or Chinese New Year. In an even more tone-deaf move, the customized “fortunes” are dirty jokes written in intentionally poor English to ostensibly imitate “Chinglish,” moving the promotion from being culturally ignorant to downright offensive. Hopefully, Chinese travelers and local foodies alike will do their research on menus ahead of time and patronize award-winning venues focused on the quality of the food rather than tacky gimmicks this holiday season.