We scour the best Chinese New Year feasts on offer this season so you can celebrate the coming Year of the Tiger in the perfect festive spirit.
Chinese New Year food tends to be overrated. For too often this is the time of the year when many restaurants simply take their usual dishes, incorporate “luxury” ingredients -think abalone out of a can, or thawed frozen scallops – just so they can mark up prices for the festive season. Rarely do we see real innovation that isn’t just a poorly disguised effort to charge more.
Thankfully, some restaurants do rise to the occasion. Here are our favourite picks for Chinese New Year feasting this year.
Shisen Hanten spices up your Lunar New Year
Where others generally falter at integrating premium ingredients, 2 Michelin-starred Shisen Hanten by Chef Kentaro successfully adds a modern twist, effectively delivering a familiar yet elevated experience.
Take their Braised Australian 2-head Whole Abalone with Premium Sea Cucumber stuffed with Shrimp Paste and Mushroom ($98++). Braised abalone and sea cucumber sounds pedestrian enough on a CNY menu. But by incorporating shrimp paste, Shisen Hanten adds a juicy texture to the spongy sea cucumber. The sweet shrimp also does double duty by balancing the savoury briny notes of the abalone.
Shisen Hanten’s Braised Inaniwa Udon with Lobster and Roasted Garlic in Superior Golden Broth ($58++) is yet another CNY upgrade that works. More commonly made with yee mien or beehoon, the soft, slippery udon maintains its unique texture and holds up well to the broth.
But where Shisen Hanten really shines is in its spicy food; after all, it’s rooted in Sichuan cuisine. The Steamed Grouper with Yellow Pickle Pepper Broth ($28++ per 100g) didn’t disappoint – here fresh grouper is steamed with tomatoes, black fungus and celery on a bed of fermented yellow pepper broth. The broth had sweet, sour and spicy elements, and bordered on the edge of pain and pleasure that all spice-heads love, balanced with the firm flesh and clean flavour of the grouper. A world apart from the more traditional Cantonese-style steamed fish.
Festive CNY set menus at Shisen Hanten start from S$128.80++ per person for its Opulence Menu to S$298.80++ per person for the Majestic Menu, available from 10 January to 15 February 2022.
Delight in noveau classics at 藝 yì by Jereme Leung
We’ve always been impressed by the progressive fine-dining Chinese culinary creations over at 藝 yì by Jereme Leung in Raffles Singapore. This year its Chinese New Year spread continue to reinforce its reputation of being able to tread a fine balance between heartwarming Chinese culinary tradition and exciting modern innovation.
藝 yì by Jereme Leung offers a whopping four different yu sheng sets, each with a different twist. For example, there’s the Prosperity Yu Sheng with Tuna Sashimi, Spanish Iberico Ham & Honey Melon adds an Italian/Spanish twist to traditional lo hei, while the Longevity Yu Sheng with Artic Shellfish and Japanese Sweet Shrimps will appeal to seafood lovers.
We reckon the Double Boiled Sea Cucumber Soup will Dried Scallops & Matsutake Mushrooms will put a smile on the face of the most demanding matriarch, while a most comforting classic dish for everyone in the family is the Braised Beef Ribs with Dried Tangerine Peel, Carrots and Radish.
Festive CNY set menus at 藝 yì by Jereme Leung start at S$168++ per person for lunch and $208++ for dinner, available from 17 January to 15 February 2022.
Wan He Lou 萬合樓 offers a CNY seafood galore
That’s not to say all CNY dishes boring and needs jazzing up; when done well, traditional festive dishes can be very enjoyable. Wan He Lou, under the stewardship of award-winning Executive Chef Lau Siaw Dee, is an example of how old-school Chinese food is timeless.
Wan He Lou’s CNY menu sticks to the classics, and they do it well. Take their Lo Hei, for example, which comes with their “Reunion” and “Lunar New Year” Feast set menus. Apart from the addition of whole abalones, the lohei is simple – you get your usual shredded vegetables, “kiam sng di” garnishes and crackers for a most authentic experience. And if you’re doing takeaway we love the design of their takeaway box, which comes with auspicious phrases are printed within, so you know exactly what to recite as each ingredient is added.
Their Prosperity “Money Bags” with Broccoli and Abalone is also a throwback. Wan He Lou stuffs beancurd skin with fish paste and roe, and brands it with Chinese characters – it doesn’t get more old school than that. Even when Wan He Lou uses something premium like kurobuta pork in its Pan Fried Kurobuta Pork, it doesn’t feel forced, but works naturally with the tangy sweet sauce.
What Wan He Lou is famous for though, is its Signature Lobster Porridge, which is included in all its CNY sets. This is the dish that made Wan He Lou popular, and for good reason too. Instead of going overboard by adding truffle oil or some other “fashionable” ingredient, they understand the importance of layering so the rice in their porridge is infused with chicken stock first, then added to the rich lobster broth so you get a perfectly balanced dish.
We’ll eat lobster porridge any time of the year, but it surely feels even more special during Chinese New Year.
Wan He Lou’s festive CNY set menus start from S$88++ per person for the Delightful Set in its Reunion Menu (available 21 to 31 January 2022), and S$88++ per person for the Soaring Success Set in its Lunar New Year Feast Menu (available 1 to 5 February 2022).
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