Year of the Dragon: Vancouver Restaurants for Celebrating Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year Dim Sum menu at The Lobby Lounge in collaboration with Mott 32; Photo: Fairmont Pacific Rim

On February 10, 2024, the Lunar New Year begins, ushering in what promises to be an exciting and auspicious time. The Year of the Dragon is characterized by good fortune, strength, and drive. As a multicultural city with a vibrant Asian restaurant scene, Vancouver is the ideal place for celebrating the Lunar New Year over sumptuous food and drink.

The Lunar New Year is traditionally celebrated by numerous Asian cultures, such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Malaysian, and South Korean communities. In Vancouver, it becomes a wonderful opportunity to honour both the history of Asian cuisine in the city, as well as its incredible diversity today. As well, Lunar New Year has become important across communities in Vancouver, with non-Asian establishments also taking part in the festivities.

Chinese restaurants began in Vancouver with the arrival of significant numbers of Chinese labourers in the late nineteenth century. Chinatown emerged in 1886 on Carrall and what was then Dupont Street, with grocers as well as restaurants soon opening in the early 1900s. Well over a century later, Vancouver’s Chinese as well as the larger Asian food scene has expanded considerably, representing a range of delicious culinary cultures.

In the lead-up to Lunar New Year, there are numerous ways to usher in the Year of the Dragon at stellar restaurants all around the city.

Dine Out Vancouver Festival: Outstanding Restaurants and Tasty Events for Lunar New Year

Liuyishou Hot Pot

Dine Out Vancouver Festival (DOVF) continues until February 4, 2024, offering many different ways to appreciate Asian cuisine. In terms of prix-fixe menus, Kirin Seafood Restaurant in Richmond and downtown’s Kirin Mandarin Restaurant are both taking part with lunch, dinner, and take out options. For example, the downtown location is offering a four-course ($55 per person) dinner, which starts with deep fried minced fish patties and vegetarian “goose” before a choice of soup (e.g., assorted seafood in puréed squash soup) and then two seafood choices for your main (e.g., whole abalone braised with sea cucumber, fish maw, goose webs, and Chinese mushrooms in oyster sauce served with pea tips and egg noodles). Dessert is a chilled pudding.

Or, if you’re interested in hot pot, Liuyishou Hot Pot has a reasonably priced AYCE dinner ($32.95 per person, soup bases not included), which allows you to get your fill of hot pot ingredients such as udon noodles, organic pork belly, handmade beef balls, and mussels.

For Filipino cuisine, Max’s Restaurant is participating, with a three-course menu ($30) available for lunch and dinner. Selections include calamares (deep fried battered squid), sizzling sweet and spicy fried chicken with jasmine rice, and a delicious leche flan.

Banana Leaf (numerous locations) has developed a strong reputation for their Malaysian cuisine. They have both a lunch and dinner menu, the latter an 8-course tasting dinner ($35 per person), which includes Singapore Hainan chicken, laksa, eggplant fries, and sambal chili prawns.

Meanwhile, Jess’ Restaurant in Kerrisdale, which specializes in refined Korean food has a lovely three-course dinner menu ($60 per person), which features dishes such as a seared scallops with green chili mayo sauce and cauliflower salsa, spicy bossam, and Korean red bean ice cream. And finally, Pho Den in Burnaby is a great place for a DOVF feast with their lunch, dinner, and vegetarian menus. The dinner menu ($24 per person) features favourites like pork spring rolls and rare beef pho.

DOVF’s tasty events also provide a great opportunity to learn more about Chinese history, culture, and cuisine in the city. Events that are ongoing until February 4 include Chinatown Dumpling Masterclasses; a Chinatown Walk, Historical Talk, and Dim Sum; Chinatown: Dim Sum Discovery; A Wok Around Chinatown; and an Introduction to Dim Sum.

Chinese Restaurant Awards

Photo: Chinese Restaurant Awards – St. Paul’s Foundation’s Scotiabank Feast of Fortune Charity Gala

Started in 2008, the Chinese Restaurant Awards have become known as an expert guide to Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine in the city, giving out accolades in categories such as Critics’ Choice Signature Dishes and Individual Awards. Looking at past winners (e.g., The Fish Man in Richmond as the 2022 Restaurant of the Year) can be an excellent way of deciding where to dine in order to experience top-notch Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine in Vancouver, ranging from best hot pot to best dim sum. Many of the top Chinese restaurants in town will be featuring elaborate multi-course banquet menus to be shared family-style.

This year, the Chinese Restaurant Awards is part of the St. Paul’s Foundation’s Scotiabank Feast of Fortune Charity Gala, which will take place February 24, 2024, at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver. The event encompasses signature dishes from chefs, such as Kevin Lin (executive chef/owner of Okini), recognized by the Chinese Restaurant Awards; live performances; and an auction.

MICHELIN Restaurants

Photo: Little Bird Dim Sum + Craft Beer

Vancouver’s first MICHELIN Guide launched in 2022, and since then, has seen additions to its stars, recommendations, and Bib Gourmand designations. Many of the MICHELIN selections reflect the history and evolution of Chinese and Asian cuisine in the city. Little Bird Dim Sum + Craft Beer (Bib Gourmand) has a heartwarming multigenerational backstory. Owner Jonathan Lee’s grandfather, Yuk Sing Lee, and his father, Joseph Lee, opened the first location of the Flamingo in 1974. The Flamingo, the first restaurant to serve authentic dim sum beyond Chinatown, went through considerable evolution over the decades but continues to operate proudly, now on SE Marine Drive. Jonathan has brought modern flair to dim sum, pairing it with local craft beer in addition to introducing vegan options (e.g., Beyond Meat siu mai).

One of the prestigious MICHELIN stars has been awarded to iDen & QuanJuDe Beijing Duck House, the Vancouver location of an acclaimed Beijing restaurant empire established in 1864. iDen is featuring a special Lunar New Year menu ($888 per table of 4 people), which encompasses numerous luxurious and lucky dishes, such as black garlic shiitake mushrooms with wagyu beef; Hong Kong-style steamed red grouper with premium soy sauce; and of course, their signature Beijing roast duck.

Other MICHELIN recommendations for marking Lunar New Year include Chef’s Choice Chinese Cuisine, Chang’An, Seaport City Seafood, Regal Mansion Cuisine, Dynasty Seafood, Anh and Chi (Bib Gourmand), Bonjour Vietnam, and Lunch Lady.

Lunar New Year Special Menus

Photo: Fanny Bay Oyster Bar

Below is a selection of special menus, dishes, drinks, and desserts available in Vancouver for Lunar New Year.

Mott 32, one of Vancouver’s premier Chinese restaurants, is doing Lunar New Year big this year. You have two different ways and places to enjoy Mott 32’s Year of the Dragon offerings.

Firstly, the Fairmont Pacific Rim is doing a fun and tasty collab with Mott 32, which is running from now until February 25, 2024 every day from 11am to 3pm in The Lobby Lounge. The hotel has been decorated with bright yellow lanterns and a golden dragon staircase in order to reflect this celebratory time. The Lobby Lounge is featuring a Lunar New Year dim sum menu, with offerings sourced from Mott 32 and then prepared Mott 32-style in the hotel’s kitchen. Expect dim sum items that are far above the pedestrian, with selections that include black truffle Iberico pork siu mai with a hidden soft quail’s egg; gold edged black cod dumplings with celery and miso; and ethereal pastries filled with Canadian AAA beef, onion, and black pepper. On Saturdays and Sundays, they’re also serving limited quantities of Mott 32’s signature 42-day apple wood roasted Peking duck, the crispy skin served with cane sugar, and the carved meat with pancakes, cucumber, scallions, and special hoisin. You can pair your dim sum meal with special cocktails, such as a black truffle old fashioned, pandan sling, or a non-alcoholic new moon.

Secondly, Mott 32 is featuring a Lunar New Year menu at their Georgia Street location. The menu, running February 9 to 24, 2024, is the product of a collaboration between Vancouver’s Head Chef He Hong Wei and Mott 32 Group’s Executive Chef Lee Man Sing. The lucky eight items can be enjoyed individually or as a tasting menu, with all of them crafted to highlight premium ingredients as well as ones considered to bring good fortune. Dishes include whole lobster and abalone lo hei salad with shredded vegetables and house-made dressing; a dried oyster bean curd roll; and flaming garoupa with pickled ginger, fermented chili bean paste, and chili.

Photo: Fairmont Hotel Vancouver Lunar New Year Afternoon Tea

Fairmont Hotel Vancouver is celebrating “Lunar New Year at the Castle” with two themed-concepts. They’re bringing back their Lunar New Year Afternoon Tea ($69 per person, $34.50 for kids 12 and under) from now until February 25, 2024 (Wednesdays to Sundays, plus Monday, February 19). This Chinese-inspired take on traditional afternoon tea will delight with treats such as shrimp and egg tarts with nappa and mala chili oil; dragon ball cream puffs; and black sesame macarons.

From now until February 24, 2024, Notch8 will transform Thursdays to Saturday evenings from 6pm onwards into a Moonlight Lounge, where they’ll be serving specialty cocktails, like the Baijiu Berry Bliss and the Suanmeitang Sour. You can pair them with dim sum and other small plates, as well as desserts. Bonus: eight diners over the course of the Lunar New Year period will win a Golden Ticket in a red envelope. Potential prizes include a stay at the hotel.

Fanny Bay Oyster Bar and Shellfish Market are serving a special dish and cocktail for Lunar New Year from February 9 to 11. You can indulge in their cracked and fried whole Dungeness crab served with Chef Tommy’s XO chili sauce, scallion-cilantro, and stir-fried vegetables ($80). Their feature cocktail is the Dragon Heart, a sesame and five-spiced old fashioned.

The Taiwanese A.Bento is pre-selling Dragon Gift boxes from now until February for pick up January 22 to February 14, 2024. Box A ($188) comes with braised pork hock, Buddha’s temptation, herbal lamb stew, and sticky rice with kabayaki eel. All dishes come vacuum-sealed, ready to be warmed up and served for 6 people. From February 9 to 16, these dishes are also available for dine-in, along with a spicy bean paste braised fish for $218. Or, you can order their Box B ($68), which has their pineapple chili sauce, garlic sauce, pork floss with salted egg, and tea selection. Or, you can buy both boxes for $238.

Potluck Hawker Eatery Prosperity Toss; Photo: Rich Won

The Prosperity Toss is returning to Potluck Hawkery Eatery February 9-11, 2024 (dine-in). Yu Sheng (aka the Prosperity Toss) is a combo of smoked salmon, tuna tataki, julienned vegetables, cashew, and sesame dressing. Symbolically, you toss the ingredients up high with chopsticks to introduce the New Year.

Minami in Yaletown also is featuring a special Lunar New Year creation: a Lucky 8 steamed sashimi set. The set comes with negi with madai, kinmedai with arima-sanshou, gold dust, black caviar, and o-toro.

Photo: Dicky’s Dumps with Rosie’s BBQ Collab

Fans of Chinese dumplings and Texas-style barbecue can look forward to a pop-up Lunar New Year collab between Dicky’s Dumps and Rosie’s BBQ that is set for February 3 at Batch Vancouver, February 10 at Dalina on Main, and February 17 at Parkside Brewery. Each of the menu items combines Dicky’s Dumps with Rosie’s tender 63 Acres premium brisket. The three dishes to look forward to are: brisket with shrimp and scallop dumplings, noodles tossed in brisket oil, shiitake mushrooms, boy choy, spring onions, and local chili oil; ramen with brisket, pork and chive dumplings, a smoked ramen egg, chili oil, and spring onions; and pork and chive dumplings topped with brisket ends, crispy onions, local chilli oil, and spring onions. Quantities will be limited so get there early.

A bunch of places in the city will be doing exclusive Lunar New Year drinks, such as the establishments in Parq Vancouver. BC Kitchen is featuring a Dragon’s Claw with black cherry vodka, lychee, pineapple and soda for the month of February, which you can enjoy with their Lunar New Year combo, which comes with wonton noodle soup and a veggie spring roll. Honey Salt will be serving a Dragon 6 cocktail with Empress gin, Cointreau, blood orange syrup, pear syrup, lemon juice, and egg white during February. And both D/6 Bar & Lounge and The Victor will have four different Lunar New Year cocktails on their February menu. Meanwhile, over at Glowbal, they’ll be pouring a Glowbal Dragon with Red Star Er Guo Tou Baijiu, dragon fruit infusion, junmai taru sake, yuzu, and lychee liquor in February.

Beacoup’s Year of the Dragon Collection; Photo: Amy Ho

Finally, for those who want a sweet start to the Lunar New Year, Beaucoup Bakery has dreamed up a Year of the Dragon Collection that will run January 27 to February 11, 2024 (available for pre-order for their two locations; as well, some items will be available for walk-ins). The collection contains an osmanthus peach tiramisu, a sesame tang yuan cruffin, a dragon cookie box, and a Year of the Dragon golden gift box. They’ll also be serving an AAA beef brisket curry cheese croissant in collab with Chinatown BBQ on February 9 and 10 from 11am onwards at the Chinatown Storytelling Centre during Taste of Chinatown.

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