One New Year down, one more to go. This week marks the Chinese New Year celebration, with events and specials taking place in restaurants all over town.
(Mu shu duck at Sunda. Photo: Rockit Ranch Productions)
Now that your New Year's Champagne-induced hangovers have finally subsided, it's time to celebrate another new year. Chinese New Year celebrations kick off this week, marking the beginning of the year of the horse, which symbolizes unexpected adventures and surprising romance. It sounds like the slogan for a Las Vegas drive-thru wedding chapel, but it certainly still merits celebration. Here's where to toast to the Chinese New Year around Chicago:
When it comes to Chinese New Year merriment, it's wise to go right to the source and hit up Chinatown. Surrounded by authentic Chinese eateries, it's hard to go wrong on any given day, but Hing Kee is hosting a dumpling-making dinner in honor of the holiday on February 1. Not only will guests learn how to make dumplings and listen to Chinese lore, but they'll be treated to a traditional Lunar New Year's feast, all for just $35. Get your tickets here.
On February 11, once the New Year has settled in for a little bit, Chinatown's Phoenix Restaurant will host a Lunar New Year dinner of its own. This one is a little more lavish, with a full-fledged banquet-style feast laden with seafood, vegetables, meats, appetizers, and more. The cost is $75, but horses are worth it. Those tickets can be acquired here.
Sunda is "horsing around" all week long, from January 27 through January 31, for the new year festivities. The mod Asian restaurant is peddling a special Chinese New Year menu honoring Chinese classics, including hot & sour soup, stuffed crab claws, golden prawns and crab cream cheese in wonton shells, mu shu duck, sesame chicken, and Szechuan pepper steak.
Guests born in the year of the horse should gallop over to 8000 Miles to cash in on special menu discounts. The 15% discount is available on Sunday, February 2 for all horses (leave the actual animals at home). Additionally, the restaurant is hosting a Lynfred Winery dinner to toast the holiday on January 30, featuring a miscellany of Chinese dishes such as jaoizi dumplings, tangerine chicken, long life noodles, and whole crispy fish. More menu specials are served on January 31, complete with a traditional lion dance, a feat designed to ward off evil spirits whilst welcoming happiness and luck.
Big Bowl goes big for its Chinese New Year celebrations. Symbolic specials are on deck January 30 through February 2, including shrimp dumplings, lobster with long life noodles, red cooked pork, and ruby red orange sangria. On January 30, guests born in the year of the horse receive a complimentary entree, while all dinnertime diners on January 31 have the opportunity to "gamble" and roll dice at their table; whatever number comes up is deducted off the total bill. February 1 marks a dumpling cooking class at the Cedar Street location at 9:00 a.m. Finally, on February 2, all guests receive a Big Bowl envelope, each one filled with either a $10 or $25 gift card, or a card for a free appetizer, dessert, or ginger-ale.
The dim sum brunch is popular in Chinese restaurants worldwide. It consists of a variety of stuffed buns, dumplings, and other savory or sweet food items that have been steamed, deep-fried, or baked. Customers pick small portions from passing carts, as the kitchen continuously produces and sends out more freshly prepared dishes. Dim sum is usually eaten at a mid-morning, midday, or mid-afternoonteatime.
- Matt Kirouac