With 1.3 billion people living in China itself, and millions more Chinese scattered across the globe, it’s safe to say that Chinese New Year is one of the most widely celebrated festivals on the planet. Dubai also hosts its fair share of the celebrations: the city boats a multitude of restaurants serving Chinese food from all different provinces, many of which are planning big festivities to mark the date.
Chinese New Year falls on February 3 this year, so you still have a few days to find a place to celebrate. Need some guidance? We took it upon ourselves to pick some of the city’s top venues to sample delectable dumplings and traditional yusheng salads (a fish salad often eaten during the festivities), while watching lion dances and exchanging hong bao – lucky red envelopes stashed with cash (or vouchers, in the case of the restaurants here).
Anise: While Anise isn’t a Chinese restaurant as such, it will be taking on a Chinese theme on February 3, 4 and 5, when it will raise the red lanterns and dress its staff in uniforms that are in keeping with the occasion. There’ll also be lion dancing (we’re assured the lions aren’t real) at 7.30pm and again at 9.30pm. While the venue is sure to look the part, its menu promises stimulation for the taste buds, featuring dishes such as Sichuan braised king prawns and twice-cooked crispy duck.
Look out for… A free meal! Well, providing you’re born in the year of the rabbit (that’s 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987 and 1999) and are accompanied by three friends.
Dhs288 per person (including soft drinks). February 3-5, 7pm-11.30pm. InterContinental Dubai Festival City, firstname.lastname@example.org (04 701 1127).
China Club: Until February 5, China Club will be offering a festive set menu courtesy of Master Chef Fu. The menu is bursting with traditional favourites, such as deep-fried crumbed prawns and celery with black fungus (Chef Fu promises that this tastes better than it sounds), as well as more contemporary dishes including dried scallop and ash melon soup.
Look out for… The red bean and New Year dumpling deep-fried ice cream. It’s a playful (not to mention chilly) take on a classic Chinese ingredient that’s best known for its use in traditional Chinese desserts, such as tangyuan rice balls filled with sweet red bean paste and boiled in plain or sweetened water.
Dhs 218 per person. Sat-Thu 12.30pm-3pm (lunch), 7.30pm-11pm (dinner); Friday 11.30am-3.30pm (lunch), 7.30pm-11pm (dinner). Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Deira Creek, Baniyas Road, Deira (04 205 7333).
Long Yin: On February 3-5, the good people at Long Yin are imploring you to hop into the Chinese New Year by chowing down on a specially prepared à la carte menu. Because the Chinese New Year
is a family affair, Long Yin is serving some traditional dishes that you’d expect to find on dinner tables around the country – specialities such as dumplings, fish and nian gao (sticky rice cakes) will all be prepared by
Look out for… The deep-fried sesame balls. Saving money is an underlying theme for Chinese New Year, and this dessert signifies money ‘rolling in’. They taste pretty good too.
Prices vary. 12.30pm-5.45pm (lunch), 7.30pm-11.45pm (dinner). Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud, www.diningatmeridiendubai.com (04 702 2455).
Peppercrab: Peppercrab is celebrating Chinese New Year on February 2-9, when Chef Eng Wai Meng and his team will be preparing an à la carte menu to welcome the Year of the Rabbit. Dishes on offer include yusheng, the Chinese New Year salad, which is said to bring good luck.
Look out for… The yusheng may be the most traditional Spring Festival dish on offer at Peppercrab, but we’re also smacking our lips at the prospect of roasted Szechwan marinated chicken, and the oven-baked giant king prawns with garlic or clay-pot rice with Chinese chicken sausage and sun-dried duck leg. Tasty.
Prices vary. Sat-Wed 7pm-11.30pm, Thu-Fri 7pm-1am, Grand Hyatt Dubai, Oud Metha, restaurants.dubai.hyatt.com (04 317 2222).
Saffron: The Atlantis restaurant that seems to serve any cuisine under the sun is taking a decidedly Oriental tone on February 2-17. Expect an array of dishes such as steamed jiaozi (dumplings) filled with ground beef and mushrooms and dipped in soy-vinegar sauce; as well as braised hoe see fatt choy (dried oysters and scallops served with abalone, mussels and mushrooms and garnished with black seaweed and baby pak choi). Desserts will feature niangao (the new year cake), which is made from glutinous rice flour and sugar, and the fagao prosperity cake. Aside from the food, there’ll be lion dances on February 2 at 7.30pm, and February 3-4 at 1pm.
Look out for…Yusheng – a Teochew salad eaten during Spring Festival, made from raw fish (usually salmon), shredded cucumber, white radish and carrot, deep-fried yams, pickled ginger and tossed with five-spice powder.
Dhs195 (dinner); Dhs165 (lunch on February 3); Dhs325 (brunch on February 4). Atlantis, The Palm Jumeirah, email@example.com (04 426 2626).
Shang Palace: You’d expect something a bit special from Chinese hotel The Shangri-La, and Shang Palace’s chef is happy to oblige, putting together a special set menu for Spring Festival. There are three dishes that we like the look of – the wok-fried lamb chop with black pepper sauce, stir-fried baby cabbage with dried scallops, and glutinous rice ball stuffed with black sesame.
Look out for… The auspicious hong bao envelopes, which are traditionally exchanged between friends and family at Chinese New Year. At the Shangri-La, hong baos will contain vouchers starting from Dhs50. There will also be a ‘tea master’ roaming the restaurant, acrobatically serving tea from a long-spouted teapot.
Dhs288 per person. 1pm (lunch), 8pm (dinner). Shangri-La Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 405 2703).
Shanghai Chic: One of the newest contemporary Chinese restaurants in town is offering a lavish five-course set menu on February 2-3. As well as the yu shang salad, mains include steamed Teow Chow cod, Shanghai-style braised duck, and stewed baby abalone with dry oyster and fatt choi in truffle oil.
Look out for… Shanghai Chic’s signature dim sum platter, which features saffron seafood dumplings, juicy chicken siew mai and deep-fried taru puffs.
Dhs388 per person. 7pm-11.30pm. Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, firstname.lastname@example.org (04 444 0000).
Zheng He’s: Zheng He’s lavish Chinese New Year celebrations involve lion dancing (of course), live guzheng music (a guzheng is much like a harp), a daizu performance (a Chinese folk dance) and a set menu on February 2-3. In keeping with these modern times (we’re already into the second decade of the 21st century, after all), Zheng He is offering diners a contemporary take on Chinese dishes – ‘Western presentation with Chinese flavours’ and ‘a blend of East and West’.
Look out for… From what we’ve seen, the daizu dance, which originates from Yunnan province in China, is pretty special – it should add a nice touch to the night.
Dhs750 per person (including selected house beverages). 7pm-11.30pm. Mina A’ Salam, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6159).
For an authentic Chinese experience…
China is a pretty big place (it’s the most heavily populated country in the world), so it’s difficult to define exactly what constitutes as an ‘authentic’ Chinese New Year experience. That said, the closest you’ll come is at China Sea on Al Maktoum Street, Deira (04 295 9816). The restaurant serves all manner of mainland favourites, from duck to chicken’s feet, as well as Cantonese classics such as dim sum. What’s more, it’s likely that many of Dubai’s Chinese residents will be celebrating there, so you’ll be in good company.