The Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco (David Yu/Flickr)
The Chinese New Year will be celebrated on Saturday, January 28. San Francisco already started the festivities this past weekend with a mini procession and ribbon cutting ceremony in Chinatown that will culminate in the big parade on Saturday, February 11.
Now is the time to get in the mood by dining at some of the popular and classic Chinese restaurants in San Francisco and the East Bay.
The astrological year technically starts Feb. 3 and it is the Year of the Rooster. 2017 is a Female Fire Rooster year -- since each year is also associated with an element and gender -- so you may hear it referred to as the year of the Red Fire Chicken. If you are interested in Chinese astrology and want to find out your horoscope for this year check out the Chinese Fortune Calendar.
Here are ten Chinese restaurants, some with special holiday menus, to get you started. You can also check out our guide to popular dim sum spots. Add your own favorites in the comments.
Mister Jiu's (Chinatown): We've written about the much-anticipated opening before, but almost a year later the modern Cantonese spot continues to live up to its rep. The restaurant takes traditional dishes and adds Northern California touches. That means the menu changes with the season, but you can count on starters (like the delicious pork buns), soups, hand-pulled noodles, and dumplings. The tea-smoked Liberty Farm duck is a signature, as is the roasted quail. Get them when you can. Mister Jiu's is having a Lunar New Year benefit dinner on January 30.
Z&Y Restaurant(Chinatown): There's a reason this Szechuan restaurant is a favorite of critics, Chinese restaurateur legend Cecilia Chiang, and President Obama. Chef Li Jun Han learned his trade in Beijing and has fine-tuned his spicy version over the years, while serving Chinese presidents along with American ones. (Han also owns Chili House in the Inner Richmond, if you're looking for something less well-known but just as good.) There's over 100 items on the menu and you'll want to try them all, but start with the couple's delight, the chicken with explosive chili pepper, and the cold bitter melon.
R&G Lounge (Chinatown): There are three levels at this 20-year-old Cantonese restaurant, so you've got options. Downstairs is more of a old-school Chinese-American busy lounge feel, while upstairs is a buffet. The specialty here is the seafood, namely the signature live salt and pepper crab -- a deep-fried seasoned version of local crab. But you'll also want to try the walnut and prawns, black cod, and the West Lake minced beef soup. And it wouldn't be a lounge without lychee martinis. R&G is only doing a specific Chinese New Year's menu for banquets -- in case you want to plan a special event.
Hakkasan(Downtown): On the second floor of the One Kearny building, the San Francisco outpost of the international chain, Hakkasan is massive and usually filled with guests. Along with lunch and dinner, they have brunch on Saturdays and an extensive list of tea and cocktails. The New Year's menu includes traditional items, like the Chinese prosperity salad prepared at the table, and specialties, like the roast chicken, jellyfish, and mooli, or try the braised abalone, wok-fried tiger prawns, and shiitake mushrooms. At $128/person, the holiday menu is available until Feb. 11.
M.Y. China (Downtown): Yes, it's in the Westfield shopping center, but once inside there's James Beard award-winning celebrity chef Martin Yan. (It's also co-owned by the owners of the highly popular Koi Palace.) The open kitchen adds an element of showmanship, so you can watch the noodles being hand-pulled and the giant woks being lit. You'll definitely want to eat some noodles watching the masters at work: noodle soup, the Hong Kong-style crispy noodles or the wild boar scissor-cut noodles. There's also a full menu of dim sum, sides, roast chicken, and Dungeness crab (a specialty.) M.Y. China has a special New Year's menu from January 28- February 11.
Check out the M.Y. China episode of KQED's video series Taste This!
E&O Kitchen and Bar (Downtown): Just outside the Dragon's Gate, E&O is known for its modern take on traditional foods. From Feb. 5 through Feb. 20, the restaurant will also be offering its take on the Chinese New Year with a special menu that includes long life noodles, whole crispy fish, and specialty cocktails. They'll also have a new dish of Dungeness crab and chicken siu mai dumplings with black vinegar soy. And everyone gets red envelopes with prizes inside.
San Tung and San Tung II (Inner Sunset): At San Tung, it's all about the spicy dry-fried chicken wings. Butthey also have other tasty items too. Try the black bean sauce noodles and garlic green beans. This place isn't exactly high-end, but it is popular. There are no reservations and the wait can get long. On the plus side, if you get tired of waiting, San Tung II is right next door. And if that's full too, take your food over to-go and head to the park. San Tung will serve its regular menu during the holiday.
Spices III (Oakland Chinatown): It may not come as a surprise that a place called "Spices" is known for its spicy Szechuan food. Items are rated by levels of spiciness, meaning the famous “Gangsta” casserole “Murder Style” gets triple peppers on the scale. Try the eggplant in garlic sauce, dumplings in chili oil, and the Szechuan fish with beans and tofu. If you really want to wipe out your taste buds, there are extreme stinky options for that too. Cash only. Nothing fancy for the new year.
Shandong(Oakland Chinatown): The region (and its cuisine) may not be as well-known internationally, but the coastal province Shandong is part of the historic culinary traditions of China. And the Shandong Restaurant in Oakland serves up some of its most famous dishes: Shandong beef and handmade Shandong dumplings with pork and vegetables. Or try the wonton noodle soup with spicy sesame paste noodles -- pay $1 extra for the hand-pulled noodles. There is also a range of vegetarian options and complimentary tea.
Gum Kuo (Oakland Chinatown): In the Pacific Renaissance Plaza mall, Gum Kuo serves up what's known as some of the best congee in Chinatown. Order interesting combinations like pork liver and pork blood porridge. Don't ignore the BBQ, though, which you can smell from far away and order over-the-counter. Try the char siu (BBQ pork) or the roast pork with crackly skin. It might be a bit bustling and confusing -- and it won't be fancy -- but it will be tasty. Gum Kuo now has a second location in Dublin. A special Chinese New Year's menu will be available for the next week.