Auspicious Eats

Kirin | BCBusiness
New year’s dishes at Kirin restaurants are cleverly named with puns that suggest good luck.

Where to celebrate the new year, Chinese style, with authentic regional cuisines in the Lower Mainland

January 31 marks the start of the year of the horse. Traditionally, Chinese around the world ring in the new year with fireworks, sweets and a meal at home. Modern affluence and fashion, however, are pushing more Chinese families to celebrate their new year with a meal out.

Kirin Restaurants

In Vancouver, the Kirin Restaurants group delivers the classic fine dining that defines a new year feast. Executive chef Allen Liu oversees 230 staff at Kirin’s four restaurants and two noodle shops. He designs two set new year menus (either $838 or $688 for a 10-seat banquet), harkening back to the seasonal dishes he ate with his family in Hong Kong.  

The key to the classic new year’s feast, Liu explains, is wordplay. Most items on the menu are auspicious puns, meant to bring good luck for the year ahead. The frizzy black moss in the scallop and oyster soup, for example, resembles hair, a homophone for “good luck.” The steamed rock cod is a fish, which sounds like “abundance.” Ask a waiter about the name of each dish for a brief course in Chinese linguistics. Liu admits that puns are not for everybody; for a more accessible new year’s feast he suggests his signature Hong Kong roast suckling pig.

Tables fill up fast at Kirin, especially on the weekends in December and January, so book weeks in advance for a large table (kirin; Vancouver, Richmond and New Westminster).

Alvin Garden

Alvin Garden serves soul-warming home cooking from the Chinese heartland. Husband-and-wife foodies Carson Liang and Ivy Jiang opened the restaurant in 2003 to recreate the fiery Hunanese cuisine of Jiang’s childhood.

The plain 70-seat dining room is worth a trip for the smoked pork belly—which is what bacon always dreamed it could be. Order it stir-fried with tender garlic bolts.

Round out a new year feast with braised tilapia, chicken giblets with white chilis and simple stir-fried cauliflower. Unless you boast superhuman tastebuds, ask for mild or medium spice, and grab plenty of white rice and cold Qingdao beer to balance the heat (Burnaby, 604-437-0828).

Shanghai Xiao Long Bao Restaurant

In northern China, dumplings are the essential new year snack. Drop by Shanghai Xiao Long Bao in downtown Vancouver for a casual lunch or dinner from Shanghai-born chef Peter Yi. Don’t be intimidated by his vast, 324-dish menu. Skip right to item 236: steamed pork dumplings. These delicate teardrops are filled with rich, hot soup, delivering the meaty, slightly sweet flavour of Shanghai cuisine.

Pair your dumplings with popular Shanghai snack plates such as salted duck, chilled pork jelly and marinated vegetables with pressed tofu (; Vancouver, 604-669-8819).