We Love Food: Chinese New Year

Photo courtesy of Dave Newman (newmanchu)
Chinese New Year courtesy of Dave Newman (newmanchu)

It’s the Year of the Dragon folks, which other than promising good fortune and fire-breathing glory also means mouth-watering Chinese menus at some of DC’s best Asian haunts. Starting January 23rd  Zentan, Toki Underground, and The Source will be paying homage to the Dragon through the culinary traditions of the Chinese New Year.

Now, for some brain food. The Dragon, also known as the divine beast, is the fifth sign of the Chinese Zodiac Calendar which consists of 12 animal signs, and is a symbol of good fortune and a sign of intense power. The official Chinese New Year is Monday, January 23rd and is celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving, for a whole 15 days. Traditional foods include a whole fish (represents unity and abundance), chicken (for prosperity), uncut noodles (representing long life) and dumplings (for good fortune).

So, where can you get your Dragon on and eat for good luck?

Zentan - This Donovan House establishment belonging to Top Chef Master Susur Lee is offering a special four-course menu for $47.10 (based on the year of the Chinese Calendar 4710 Dragon, naturally) from January 23-28. The menu, designed by Chef Jaime Montes de Oca will offer various dishes that are traditionally thought of as bringing good fortune. Menu highlights include; szechuan hot and sour soup with shredded vegetables, spinach and shittake dumplings with swatow chili, an unusual but oh so delicious turnip cake with chinese eggplant and roasted peppers, Lee’s famous 19 ingredient singapore slaw with salted plum dressing, stir fried ‘longevity’ noodles with jicama, shiitake, edamame and sesame soy ginger sauce, as well as a crispy red snapper with chili black bean sauce and the most amazing brussel sprouts with soy mirin sauce. For dessert, options include a honey tangerine gelato, and a five spice apple tart with salted caramel ice cream. The entire menu is designed to be shared and keeping with chinese tradition all food served represents wisdom, good fortune, and peace. For some Dragon food porn see below.

Photo courtesy of NataliaMoreno
courtesy of NataliaMoreno

Photo courtesy of NataliaMoreno
courtesy of NataliaMoreno
Photo courtesy of NataliaMoreno
courtesy of NataliaMoreno

The Source- Wolfgang Puck’s downtown restaurant will pay tribute to the culinary traditions of the Chinese New Year, incorporating the five elements of fire, water, wood, earth and metal. Dishes from the five-course menu include a wok fried lobster dumpling (fire dragon), apple wood smoked peking duck (wood dragon), szechuan pepper crusted filet  with longetivy noodles (earth dragon) and a golden pineapple sticky cake with black pepper ice cream (metal dragon). The Year of the Dragon menu, priced at $125 per person or $175 with wine pairings, will be offered in addition to the restaurant’s a la carte menu until February 3rd. For all Chef Puck fans, the master will be in house on February 3 hosting a dinner to close out the celebration.

Photo courtesy of bonappetitfoodie
Scott Drewno of The Source courtesy of bonappetitfoodie

Toki Underground- You are now all well aware of my Toki love affair, but to honor the Chinese New Year, chef Erik will be doing a pop-up collaboration with two amazing chefs/ninjas. On Tuesday, January 24th, Chef Thang Le of Toki Underground, who used to work at Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC and Iggy’s in Singapore, will be preparing a modern rendition of the classic Chinese New Year cuisine, which I hope will involve some kind of Momofuku inspired cookie in the mix. On Wednesday, January 25th Chef Scott Drewno from none other than The Source will be collaborating with Erik on an eight course menu that will feature a family style main course, and my guess is will involve a whole lotta duck. The pop-up is priced at $65.00 person, with two seatings per night. (note- there will be no vegetarian option or substitutions)

Regardless of your astrological enthusiasm, this week is a good way of exploring the culinary traditions and customs of China without the daunting flight and lost in translation feeling.

While it was Georgetown that brought me here, it was the city that kept me here. I was born in Colombia but spent my teenage years in London, yet have never felt more at home than in the District. I believe the best way to get to know a place is through its cuisine, and plan my life around sharing good food with good people. Lover of lattes, bacon and bourbon. This is Why I Love DC .Follow me on Twitter or Email natalia(at)welovedc.com