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Where to eat when...celebrating Chinese New Year

The Year of the Dog is fast approaching, and we’re already giggling like school girls in anticipation for the amount of tikoy we’ll be eating to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Celebrating the new year is also a great excuse to bond with family over all kinds of fantastic Chinese food. Some restaurants have the yusheng — or the prosperity toss believed to bring in more happiness, luck, and prosperity — on offer, while others have special menus just for the Lunar new year.

If you’re looking to book a big table for family, friends, or coworkers for the upcoming new year celebrations, here’s a list of old favorites and new discoveries that we’re sure you’ll love.

1. XIÙ Fine Cantonese Dining


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From the group that brought in Lugang, Tuan Tuan, and Dessert Kitchen comes XIÙ, a Cantonese dining restaurant that offers authentic flavors presented in a way that is modern and up-to-date with what’s trending in Hong Kong.

Start your celebration with Jellyfish and Preserved Egg in Szechuan Sauce (P380) and Honey-glazed Prime Cut Char Siu (P680) while waiting for your Roast Goose (P3,800) and Cantonese Style Crispy Pork Belly (P680).

The Sweet and Sour Pork (P480) is a favorite with customers, with an oh-so-crispy coating protecting the tender pork inside. Along with the Fried Noodles with BBQ Pork and Soy Sauce (P480), it's a hit with the kids at the table.

For dessert, try something a little different: the cold, creamy, and nutty Pistachio Soup (P720/portion, P180/bowl) has enough sweetness to cleanse the palate.

115 Connecticut St., Northeast Greenhills, San Juan. Open daily, 11am - 2:30pm, 6pm-10pm. +63947 707 0228.

2. Emerald Garden


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This celebrated Chinese food institution in Ermita was made popular by their giant pork buns, the Tai Pao (P99), stuffed with asado, chicken, meatballs, chorizo, and salted egg, served with a sweet sauce that balances out some of the saltier fillings.

Emerald Garden has a selection of the more obscure, authentic dishes sought after by people looking for traditional Chinese cuisine for the entire family.

Start with the Shredded Duck with Fish Lips Soup (starts P280) and if you’re feeling adventurous, treat the family to a platter of Fried Pigeon (P500) or Sizzling Frog Legs (P460). The Shredded Pork with Bean Sauce & Bread (starts P225) is sure to be a hit with everyone at the table, or indulge in their Lobster with Four Kind Sauce (P6,000/kg).

Most Chinese New Year meals always involve a fish dish to increase prosperity, like their Fish Fillet with Tausi Sauce (starts P250), and Emerald Fried Noodle (starts P225) to signify happiness and longevity. For dessert, end your meal on a high note with Emerald Garden’s sweet and creamy Mango Sago (P85) and Honey Taro (P250).

1000 Roxas Boulevard, Ermita, Manila, Metro Manila. +63 2 523 8510.

3. Paradise Dynasty


Paradise Dynasty successfully launched in Manila at Conrad's S'Maison two years ago that the well-loved Singaporean franchise just opened it’s second location at The Podium in Ortigas. Apart from having large seatings, all the items on the menu are perfect for sharing, making Paradise Dynasty super family-friendly.

The gorgeous restaurant features exquisite yet welcoming flavors from Northern and Southern China. Not to be missed is their Signature Original Xiao Long Bao (P188/6 pieces, P298/10 pieces). Apart from being absolutely delicious, eating the auspicious dumpling is said to welcome in more wealth for the year since they look like little money bags you pop in your mouth.

Two items shouldn’t be missed: (1) The Steamed Glutinous Rice Stuffed in Red Dates (P218), a sweet, addictive appetizer that prepares your taste buds for some of their more flavorful dishes like the Stir fried Shredded Pork in Black Bean Sauce served with Chinese Crepes (P388), with fork tender strings of porcine served with onions, all meant to be turned into saucy pork pockets to bite into, and (2) the Spicy Szechuan Crispy Chicken (P298), with chunks of fried chicken, pink peppercorns, Szechuan peppers, and peanuts, which make for an arrestingly beautiful dish. For dessert, give their Glutinous Rice Ball Topped with Candied Nuts (P168/4 pieces) a go, which also signifies family togetherness in the Chinese tradition.

2/F The Podium, 18 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong. Open daily from 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm. +63 2 682 3333

4.Crystal Dragon


To welcome the Year of the Dog, City of Dreams Manila’s Crystal Dragon has gone the whole nine yards. Apart from new dishes, two special five-course set menus called “Happiness” (P3,680) and “Abundance” (P6,680) and the koi-shaped Nian Gao aka Tikoy (P2,000), it also has two prosperity salads on offer: The traditional Prosperity Abalone and Salmon “Yu Sheng” and the Shredded Roasted Duck variety with fresh fruit salad in sesame dressing.

The “Happiness” and “Abundance” menus already have the prosperity salads included in the list of dishes that’s good for groups of four to six.

Upper Ground Floor, NuWA Tower 1, Aseana Boulevard corner Macapagal Avenue, Paranaque City. 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm. +632 8080

5. King Chef Seafood Restaurant


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A family go-to when in Lucky Chinatown Mall, King Chef is known for their dimsum deals and delicious fresh seafood offerings at prices that don’t break the bank.

Whet the appetite with orders of Taosi Spareribs (P90), X.O. Siomai (P145), and Hakaw (P155) while sipping on complimentary green tea, while waiting for the rest of the meal to leave the kitchen. The Roast Duck Noodle Soup (P250) can be shared between two people, much like their King's Style Seafood Congee (P240), a light rice porridge topped with shrimp, squid, fish, crabstick, fishball, lobster balls.

They also have their seasonal King's style Buddha Soup, depending on when specific ingredients are available. Popular items on the menu for Chinese New Year include their Hot Shrimp Salad (P440/small), Chicken Fortune Bags (P510/small, P770/medium, P1,020/large), Spareribs with 8 Spices (P360/small, P540/medium, P900/large), Suckling Pig Combination Platter (P780/small), and Seafood Mango Salad with Duck (P960/small). Dessert at King Chef should never be forgotten, as they have an Instagram-worthy Fish Gelatin (P90), a nod to abundance and luck.

2/F, Lucky Chinatown Mall, Binondo, Manila. Open daily from 10am - 11pm. +63 2 742 5464.

6. Spirals at Sofitel Manila

From February 15 to 18, at the Chinese section of Spirals, a special menu will be on offer to celebrate the Year of the Dog. Resident Chinese Chef, Chef Michael Tai, went thematic and prepared dishes around the Chinese concept of He Jia Huan Le or felicity. “I have prepared a grand feast for families to share as they welcome prosperity, happiness and good fortune into their lives,” Tai said.

Guests will find 17 new dishes just for the occasion, including the Dragon Phoenix Platter (salted egg yolk crab, fried eel, black pepper crocodile, prawn with Cereal butter, Singapore style fried chicken wins), the Long Live Noodle, Treasure Fried Rice, Manchu Han Hot Pot, Kung Pao Frog Legs, and Double boiled bird’s nest with rock sugar, among others.

CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay. +632 5515555

7. Jade Garden


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Operated by the geniuses behind the older Peking Garden, Jade Garden opened at the second floor of Glorietta 2 in Makati in 2014 and has since been a haven for good Chinese food. Call in advance to reserve a table, especially for big groups, because they do get full pretty fast.

This is a great restaurant for Filipinos who love Chinese cuisine, but want to stick to the more familiar dishes that the whole family can enjoy — like their Sweet Corn & Assorted Seafood Soup (starts P450), Shredded Jellyfish & Cuttlefish in "Special Mix Sauce" (P280), and Cucumbers in Kimchi Sauce (P200) to start the meal, followed by Jade Garden’s Roasted Duck (P2,500/whole bird), which you can ask to have carved and turned into duck pancakes, or Roasted Garlic Flavored Chicken (P980/whole bird) for those who aren’t too fond of dark meat.

Don't forget the abundance of the ocean in every Chinese New Year feast, as the restaurant offers a mildly spicy Sautéed Fresh Scallops & Prawns with X.O. Sauce (starts P1,600) and Fried Crab with Spring Onion & Ginger served with vermicelli noodles. For extra luck, toss in their Crispy Noodles with Seafood (starts P520) to the celebration, to signify long life and prosperity. If you find the options overwhelming, ask you server about their set meals which can feed up to 10 people.

2/F, Glorietta 2, Ayala Center, Glorietta Complex, Makati. Open Daily 11:30-2pm, 6pm-10pm. +63 2 955 1808.

8. Chongquing Restaurant 

For those looking for an authentic Szechuan restaurant for Chinese New Year, make a beeline for Binondo and look for Chongquing! Szechuan favorites in various degrees of spiciness is not for the weak, and customers can look forward to tucking into plates of Kung Pao Chicken (P280) marinated in chili peppers, Spicy Pork with Noodles (P260), or Spicy Fish (P300), with the heat permeating every nook and cranny of your mouth. Congquing serves other dishes, too, and their Dongpo Pork (P300) is a beauty, the perfectly square pork belly tied to look like a little gift that practically melts in your mouth.

Sabino Padilla Street, Binondo, Manila. Open Daily from 1am to 11pm. +63 2 733 0530.

9. Crystal Jade Dining IN

Another Singaporean franchise that is strict in keeping to their international standards is Crystal Jade Dining IN, which can be found on High Street in BGC.

Ask about their yusheng bowl, and start your meal off with a celebratory toss of auspicious ingredients – everything from noodles to salmon.

Everything on the menu is fantastic and caters to both people looking for safe options and those in the hunt for more exotic Chinese fare.

With portions meant for sharing, dive right into the new year spirit with the Crystal Jade Treasure Pot (starts P4,880), a huge bowl overflowing with premium seafood ingredients like shrimp, abalone, duck, and other surprises, along with a platter of BBQ Pork with Honey (starts P480).

For a refined take on lechon Macau, the restaurant offers the Deep-fried Kurobuta Pork with Balsamic Vinegar (starts P680), while their Braised Pork Belly with Special Sauce (P350/person) served with mantao buns is a beautiful version of dongpo.

As far as seafood is concerned, Crystal Jade serves Fresh Sliced Garoupa Poached in Superior Soup (P350/100g), but if you’re looking for something a little different, they also have Braised 8-Head Whole Abalone in Oyster Sauce (P980/piece). Crystal Jade Dining IN also has an IG-worthy fish tikoy, that you can enjoy at the restaurant, or to give as gifts to friends, family, and coworkers, so ask your server about their Double Fish Flourishing Fortune Glutinous Rice Cake (P880/box), too.

C2 Bonifacio High Street Central, 7th Acenue, BGC, Taguig. Open Daily 11am-2:30pm. 5pm-11pm. +63 2 808 5233.

10. Waterfront Manila

For the Chinese New Year, Waterfront Manila is bringing back in Chef Lee Yan Fend of the hotel's well-loved Peony Garden, the Cantonese restaurant with subtle Malaysian touches, for an enormous buffet offering.

A wide variety of soups and dimsum complement a long list of delectable entrees that include deep-fried boneless chicken, stir-fried clams, and pork ribs, and the carving station that features Cantonese Char Siu pork belly, Lechon Pork Belly Roll, Soy Chicken, and Roast Duck. Of course, Tikoy takes it place as the star of the dessert station, which also has the usual Cantonese fare of Mango Pudding with Pomelo Sago and Coconut Milk, Longan Grass Jelly, Chinese Pineapple Cookies, and Egg Tarts.

Maria Orosa Street, U.N. Avenue, Manila. +632 5261212

— LA, GMA News