Chinese Year of Rabbit Brings Savory Treats

LAS VEGAS ( TheStreet) -- Fortune and longevity arrives with the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese calendar, and who doesn't want either one? Those born under the sign of the rabbit are also said to be kind, with strong family ties and an enjoyment of the good things in life. So rabbits will be particularly happy this year.

Festivities mark the occasion throughout China, complete with dragon dances, fireworks and lavish decorations rich in reds and golds, but special menus also play a large part in the holiday, with components featuring bold flavors and promises of good luck and prosperity. Popular menu items include fat choy, a symbol of increases in property or wealth; noodles for longevity; sweet rice dumplings for family unity; shrimp for happiness; and fish, with the head and tail intact, to bring a good beginning and end to the year. TravelsinTaste went across the country to find some of the more exquisite celebrations from a culinary standpoint.

Santa Monica
Wolfgang Puck's Chinois on Main, an authentic Asian bistro, is taking a break from its menu for dineLA, Los Angeles' restaurant week, and serving up Chinese New Year's dishes Feb. 2-3. While the classics here include Whole Sizzling Catfish with ponzu dipping sauce, Shanghai Lobster, and Wolfgang Puck's Famous Chinois Chicken Salad, market specials are available and to add to the fun. One can even eat at the counter and watch the action in the demonstration kitchen.

The signature 16‐foot, 1,000‐pound rabbit at the Palazzo in Las Vegas took more than 35 team members to assemble and nearly four months to complete.

New York
Of course celebration go on throughout New York's Chinatown, but upscale Chinese restaurants all over Manhattan are participating. In midtown, at the Adam Tihany-designed Shun Lee Palace, Michael Tong -- the man who helped revolutionize Chinese cuisine in North America -- is celebrating the various regions of China from Beijing to Wuxi in a tasting menu Feb. 2-9 with his Prosperity Dumplings (from Shanghai), Longevity Langostine Wok-Fried with Ginger and Scallions (a Szechuan dish) and Sea Bass Floating on Rice Wine (Mandarin).

Buddakan joins in the celebration with five menu items highlighting wealth and prosperity, including Lobster and Crab Soup Dumplings (dumplings being one of the most important foods for New Year's); Longevity Noodles with Grouper, Uni and King Crab Broth (the longer the noodle the longer and more prosperous your life); and a Golden Sesame Parfait with Clementine Sorbet and almond cookie crumble (oranges being a traditional sign of wealth in Chinese culture).

Las Vegas
At Michelin-starred Wing Lei in Wynn Las Vegas ( WYNN), Executive Chef Ming Yu's cuisine uses live fish, including such delicacies as Alaskan Geoduck Clams and Australian Spiny Lobster. Dishes indicative of wealth and business include Braised Sea Moss and Sun-dried Oyster; dishes for happiness include Wok-fried Santa Barbara Spotted Prawn with Salty Egg Yolk. The Jacques Garcia-designed space includes the garden's 100-year-old pomegranate trees imported from China.

Under the eyes of its signature 20-foot Buddha, Tao Asian Bistro at the Venetian ( LVS) is offering a special meal of Bo Bo Go Sing from Feb. 2-8. The dish consists of a rice cake stir fry with shrimp, cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, carrot, ginger, scallion, sambal chile and soy. The entree represents bringing personal and professional success into the household and translates to "each step, go higher." The good fortune doesn't end with the entree, though. Tao is also serving a dessert of four fried sesame balls in a bamboo basket, representative of good fortune and the hope money will "roll into your house." Don't we all hope that?

It's not just about the food. Double Helix Wine & Whiskey Bar at the Palazzo is celebrating by offering half-price sake and sake cocktails Feb. 3.

At his Wellesley, Mass., restaurant Blue Ginger, celebrity chef Ming Tsai, a third-season contender in the Food Network's ( SSP) Next Iron Chef, is featuring "Good Luck Red Roast Duck Dumplings." Dumplings signify family reunion, and many families spend New Year's Eve together making dumplings and enjoying them together at midnight. He's also holding a Chinese Banquet Wine Dinner on Feb. 7 for the New Year.

Happy New Year! In the spirit of Tao, may money and good fortune roll into your house!

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