In a multicultural melting pot such as Dubai, new year celebrations are a lot like buses – after waiting an age for one, they all seem to come at once. But for those of us who have fully recovered after the festivities of welcoming 2012 and/or the Russian new year (on January 7), there’s a perfect excuse for yet more merriment waiting just around the corner. On Monday January 23, the world’s Chinese population celebrate the Year of the Dragon, the most auspicious year of the Chinese zodiac. Firecrackers won’t be flung around with abandon as they are in, say, Beijing, but other traditions – namely feasting – are still being celebrated all across Dubai. So, with our chopsticks at the ready (available free with paid-for copies of this week’s issue, thanks to Summer Place), Time Out set about the best meal deals the city has to offer – from tasty Peking duck to delightful dim sum, and spicy Sichuan food to traditional yusheng salad.
Anise: The good people at InterContinental Festival City are cramming as much Chinese culture as they can possibly muster into this four-day celebration of the Year of the Dragon: on January 20-23, expect dragon-dancing (effectively two men prancing about in a colourful pantomime horse) and a dragon-themed buffet. While dragon isn’t actually on the menu, there will be favourites such as Peking duck, dim sum and sweet-and-sour soup, as well as moon cakes (wrong festival, but never mind). In true Chinese tradition, children will also be given hong bao (lucky red envelopes containing surprises), while adults can find out what lies ahead in 2012 courtesy of the resident Chinese fortune-teller. Buffet dinner Dhs188 (food only), Dhs298 (selected house beverages). 7pm-11.30pm, January 20-23. InterContinental Dubai Festival City (04 701 1127).
China Club: From January 22 to February 5, Master Chef Fu presents a veritable Chinese feast, with deep-fried crumbed prawns, tossed celery with black fungus, assorted steamed dim sum, dried scallop and ash melon soup, stir-fried lobster with spring onion and ginger, and sweet deep-fried ice cream. Dinner set menu Dhs188. January 22-February 5. Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Deira Creek (04 205 7333).
Dusit Delicatessen: Dusit Delicatessen will be decked out with Chinese lanterns to create the closest thing to Chinatown that Dubai has to offer. Dim sum is the name of the game throughout January. Dhs40 per platter or bamboo basket. Daily 11am-10pm, until January 31. Dusit Thani Dubai, 133 Sheikh Zayed Road (04 317 4515).
Hoi An: Not only do the Vietnamese share China’s penchant for communism, they also like to celebrate new year on the same date. Hoi An will be marking Vietnamese T´êt for one day only (January 23) with a set menu featuring Vietnamese classics such as canh nâm moc (rich chicken broth with mushrooms, white radish and coriander), tôm nhôi toi (oven-roasted king prawn with garlic and spring onion butter), and bánh trôi (sticky rice balls filled with yellow beans and poached in coconut milk). Special T´êt menu Dhs288 (food only), Dhs400 (selected house beverages). is 7pm-11pm, January 23. Shangri-La Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 8888).
Hukama: As Singaporean chef Chang See Loy explains, residents of Hong Kong, Singapore and Chinese Malaysia eat yusheng (raw fish salad) for good luck. This, along with other Canton delicacies and South-East Asian variants of Chinese food, will be served on Hukama’s set menu. Set menu Dhs688. 7pm-11pm, January 23. The Address Downtown Dubai (04 436 8929).
Jade: For the Asiana restaurant’s ‘Happy Dragon Year’ celebrations on January 22-29, Chef Zhu ‘Rainy’ Wenbin from Sichuan will be preparing cuisine from his home province as well as Canton and Huaiying-style dishes, such as siew mai (a variant of dim sum) with crab roe and braised mixed seafood in golden basket. Chinese New Year menu Dhs218 (for two people). 6pm-11pm, January 23. Asiana Hotel, Salahuddin Road, Deira (04 238 7777).
Long Yin: Chinese New Year 2012 will be celebrated at Long Yin on January 22 and 23. Chef George has prepared
a special four-course set menu, and guests celebrating the new year at Long Yin can enjoy surprise rewards by opening a hong bao envelope. Set menu for lunch and dinner Dhs280. January 22-23. Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 217 0000).
Noodle House: Until February 11, Noodle Houses across Dubai will be running a special menu featuring dishes such as crab-topped shrimp dumplings, mapo tofu and minced beef with steamed rice. Chef Lloyd (don’t let the name fool you – he’s a culinary Shao-Lin warrior) recommends the roasted duck and mandarin salad, which he describes as a wonderful mix of colours and flavours – ‘a definite must-try!’ Dishes from Dhs20-55. Until February 11. Various locations across Dubai,
Peacock: This venue struts its stuff this Chinese new year with a set menu featuring favourites such as deep-fried wonton, vegetable spring rolls, deep-fried prawn cutlets, crispy duck, and beef black-bean soup. Set menu Dhs211 (with two hop-based beverages), Dhs311 (unlimited hops). 7pm-11pm, January 23. Sheraton Jumeirah Beach, JBR (04 315 3861).
Peppercrab: From January 23 to 29, Malaysian chef Eng Wai Meng and his team have prepared a special à la carte menu to welcome the Year of the Dragon. Celebrate in Cantonese style by tossing yusheng salad into the air (no, seriously: the higher it goes, the greater your fortune for the year). Other than making a mess with fresh veg and fish, there will be a special à la carte menu available. Prices vary. 7pm-11.30pm, January 23-29. Grand Hyatt Dubai, Oud Metha (04 317 2222).
Ping Pong: The uber cool dim sum emporium in Dubai Mall celebrates the Chinese New Year with a special menu ‘for those with dragon-sized appetites’, rounded off with mocktails. Lovers of dim sum can eat to their hearts content before sampling a special “dragon kumquat mocktail”, made from lychee juice, apricot puree, kumquats, fresh limes and basil seeds. And it is unlimited for ladies on Monday nights. Dhs108, January 15 to February 15. Dubai Mall, Downtown, Dubai (04 339 9088).
Saffron: Saffron will be welcoming the Year of the Dragon between January 22 and 28, with authentic yusheng (a kind of raw fish salad) and niangao (a cake traditionally eaten in New Year that brings good luck). The Chinese station is by far the best of Saffron’s brunch offerings, so we’re expecting good things. There will also be lion-dance performances on January 22-24. Buffet Dhs220 (adults), Dhs110 (children aged four to 11). 7.30pm-7.45pm, January 22-28. Atlantis The Palm (04 426 2626).
Sakura: For one night only, Sakura will put on an affordable buffet spread. ‘Chinese food is as much about the visual aspect as it is the taste, and dishes are colourful and highly appetising,’ explains Youssef Darwish, executive sous chef at Taj Palace. ‘Our speciality dishes for the night include pan-fried cod with sweet soya, crispy Peking duck and pan-fried glutinous rice cake with chestnut paste.’ Buffet Dhs105. 7pm-11.30pm, January 23. Taj Palace Dubai, Deira.
Shang Palace: Shang Palace is set to welcome guests with a Cantonese celebration of the New Year (‘Kung Hei Fat Choy!’), with a specially created six-course menu from Chef Mok. Dishes include sautéed broccoli and Kai-Lan with black mushrooms in oyster sauce, wok-fried fish fillet and chopped chilli, seafood fried rice with XO sauce, and glutinous rice balls in ginger soup. Lion dancing will take place in the lobby on the day of New Year (January 23), but if you miss that, fear not: festivities run until February 10. Six-course set menu Dhs288 (food only); Dhs400 (selected house beverages). Noon-2.30pm,7pm-11pm, until February 10. Shangri-La Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 8888).
Zheng He: Throughout January, Chef Tan will be whipping up a special Chinese new year lunch and dinner menu. There’s also a special group package available (for up to 10 people), where guests can dine in one of the restaurant’s two private dining rooms, enjoy a special grape pairing menu and live performances. Our only question is: how did a dish resembling Japanese sashimi (pictured) managed to creep onto the menu? Lunch menu Dhs250 per person, served noon-3pm. Dinner Dhs500 per person, served 7pm-11pm. Private group dining Dhs750 per person (including house beverages, live entertainment and a gift). January 23. Mina A’ Salam, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730).