In any culture, ringing in a new year is cause for celebration. In Chinese culture, that is especially true. This year, with Chinese New Year's Eve (Friday, January 24th), a whole host of Bay Area restaurants launched specialty menus in honor of Year of the Rat.
"In Chinese culture, rats are a sign of wealth and surplus," says China Live founder and executive chef George Chen. "Those born during the Year of the Rat enjoy sophisticated opportunities and are popular in social interaction."
Now through February 8th, everyone—whether they were born during the Year of the Rat or not—can enjoy sophisticated dishes in celebration of this exciting time.
Sichuan Chili Style fish.(Courtesy of China Live)
Nian gao at China Live
Dishes aren't the only things on display during China Live's Chinese New Year celebrations. In addition to serving specials like red seafood dumplings and red bean mochi, the Chinatown destination will host lion dancers, baijui tastings, and free dumpling workshops. Stop for the show and stay for the traditional Chinese New Year dish nian gao, a glutinous rice cake cooked with Lap Cheong sausage and garlic chives (you also can't go wrong with the steamed whole fish). // China Live, 644 Broadway, chinalivesf.com
Yu sheng salad at Hakkasan
Hakkasan's prix-fixe menu offered for Chinese New Year is built around lucky ingredients and includes everything from chicken, which is pronounced similarly to "luck," to mandarins, which represent gold and fortune. But make sure to grab a table for the fish salad starter, Yu sheng, which includes cured Scottish salmon and plum sauce. The flavors are bountiful, as is the symbolism for the dish—fish and abundance are homonyms. // Hakkasan, One Kearny St., hakkasan.com
Ba mee ped noodles with rosted duck and Chinese broccoli.(Courtesy of Daughter Thai)
Ba Mee Ped noodles at Daughter Thai
Everything served at Farmhouse and Daughter Thai is delicious, but if you've already tried everything on their regular menu, head to any of their four locations until the end of the month for their Chinese New Year special. Ba Mee Ped is an egg noodle dish that pairs roasted duck and Chinese broccoli with a duck sauce. Wash it down with their special New Year drink, Ang-Pao, made with Maker's Mark, grapefruit, and chamomile tea. // Daughter Thai, 6118 Medau Pl, Oakland, daughterthai.com
Dumplings at Royal Feast
Much like San Francisco Chronicle former food critic Michael Bauer described in 2017, "dishes are only briefly described" on the Chinese New Year menu at Millbrae's Royal Feast. You might want someone to interpret the lengthy menu as each dish is written based on what the entree symbolizes in Chinese culture, not what's actually in it. So if you want money or abundance in the new year, order the dumplings or fish—items that both appear on Royal Feast's Chinese New Year menu, which will only be available for a few weeks. // 148 El Camino Real (Millbrae), millbraeroyalfeast.com
Honey- and soy-marinated cod at Frank Fat's
Technically the table tents promoting Chinese New Year dishes like longevity noodles at Frank Fat's were packed up on the 26th, but that doesn't mean this institution isn't serving up a ton of dishes symbolizing prosperity, wealth, and abundance for the new year. Don't miss the honey- and soy-marinated cod served with Chinese mustard greens and mushrooms that's on the menu year-round. // Frank Fat's, 806 L St. (Sacramento), frankfats.com
Honey- and soy-marinated cod.(Courtesy of Fat Franks)