An Insider's Guide to Chinese New Year in San Francisco

Written by Sharon Seto

KAW POW! Gung Hay Fat Choy! Chinese New Year is the most important celebration on the lunar calendar for all Chinese around the world. An approximately two weeks festivity, those born in Asia or "ABCs" (American Born Chinese) like myself, Chinese New Year is a great excuse to DRINK, PARTY and PIG OUT with family and friends. Crazy Rich Asians or not..... "best of the best" insider tips from a local-born Chinese girl to usher in the PIG and start the Year with a BANG!

HAKKASAN'S CRAZY RICH ASIAN SCENE

Hakkasan is San Francisco's seen-and-be-seen Chinese restaurant. A global brand, its name is a magnet for those with deep pockets and don't think twice about dipping into it for partying with friends and celebrating. This ultra-chic Chinese fine-dining kitchen offers a distinctive culinary experience with a special eight-course Lunar New Year Menu for $128 per person offered January 28- February 24. The crispy duck salad is out of this world! Tip: For those who want to enjoy the Hakkasan "experience" but don't want to dough out too much cash, your best bet is to get the 3-course prix fixe "Taste of Hakkasan" lunch menu offered Mon-Friday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm.

  • Address: One Kearny Street
  • Phone:415-829-8148
  • Hours: 11:30 am - 10 pm

HARBOR VIEW HEAVEN

If you are looking for killer bay views, dining on delicious Chinese New Year eats, your search is over. Dim Sum heaven by day, mouthwatering Cantonese dishes by night, make your reservations NOW to guarantee a spot into this wildly popular restaurant! Harbor View is owned and managed by Kinson Wong, founder of much regarded R&G Lounge. Kinson broke off to open up this ginormous 20,000 square foot glam restaurant where most of the furnishings were chosen by celebrated local Ken Fulk. Amenities for a perfect Chinese New Year celebration include private VIP Banquet Rooms for your exclusive dinner guests. Here is Harborview's Lunar New Year Special Menu straight off the press. Tip: This Chinese local girl always order the signature Salt and Pepper Crab that was famous at R&G Lounge. Don't forget the lychee martini and sign in via Yelp waitlist once it hits 11:00 AM to avoid an agonizing wait for dim sum.

  • Address: 4 Embarcadero Center, Street Level
  • Phone: (628) 867-7350
  • Hours: 11:30 am - 1 am

EIGHT TABLES

Honoring one of the most well-loved and preserved Chinese traditions, Chef Chen cordially invites revelers to two very special “once in a lifetime" food and wine events to celebrate Year of the Pig. Enjoy the "Extraordinary Vintage Harlan Winery Dinner" on February 9 and the "Macallan Reflection Dinner" February 11. Eight Tables is the creme de la creme for Chinese fine dining. A vision for the eyes, Chef Chen's Tasting Menus treat you to a ten- course seasonal meal, paired with optional fine elixirs. Deemed by Time Magazine, "World's Greatest Places, 100 destinations to experience right now,” Eight Tables by George Chen guarantees to please. Tip: You can rub elbows with the global elite in the main dining areas; but for an exclusive experience, ask for the "Chef's Table" where lucky diners sit intimately in the kitchen amongst the workings of the chefs in the middle of all the action.  

  • Address:8 Kenneth Rexroth Place
  • Phone:  415-788-8788
  • Hours:  Dinner Tuesday-Saturday 

PARTY AT THE HOUSE 

If the Walls at The House could talk! Owners Larry and Angela Tse served perfect Asian American food to the masses for over 25 years using top-notch ingredients. It's the food we all know growing up Asian in America with a modern twist! The House, an ultra-modern spot, sits at the intersection of Chinatown and North Beach symbolizing the integration of diverse cultures. While celebrating Chinese New Year festivities, share a meal with family and friends at this popular local gem. Eating fish is a symbolic way of celebrating Chinese New Year and fish is what Chef Larry does best so don't miss their addictive signature grilled Sea Bass, Miso Black Cod, and Halibut Tempura. Insider Tip: You get five-star dishes for reasonable $. Don't tell the chef as they may raise prices! If you can't get reservations as it's always packed, be there 20 minutes before doors open or prepare to wait for hours. 

  • Address: 1230 Grant Ave 
  • Phone: 415-986-8612
  • Hours:  Daily 11:30 am - 2:30 pm and 5:00 pm- 11 pm

Chinese New Year Celebration 

Kick off the beginning of the Lunar New Year with Presidio Social Club’s first-ever celebration on Wednesday, February 6th from 6-9pm—where the restaurant will close for regular service and transform into one of the most festive celebrations for the holiday. Guests can expect an evening featuring a Master Soup Dumpling maker, Chinese Lion Dancers, dim sum carts, themed cocktails and more. Tickets are available for purchase online starting at $75 per person (including two drinks and access to all dining stations). The event is both an ode to Chef/Owner Ray Tang’s heritage, and Presidio Social Club’s dedication to providing the community with “all the comforts of a club, without the dues.” In addition to the festive one-night only event, Presidio Social Club will be offering rotating Lunar New Year-inspired specials on the menu from February 5th-12th.

  • Address: 563 Ruger St
  • Phone: 415-885-1888  
  • Wednesday, February 6th from 6-9pm

SF SYMPHONY CHINESE NEW YEAR CONCERT CELEBRATION AND IMPERIAL DINNER

Usher in the pig by celebrating Lunar New Year at the SF Symphony! On February 16 at Davies Hall, this colorful family event showcases many old and new Asian traditions. All ticket holders can enjoy a complimentary one-hour Festival Reception with a multitude of fun activities to tickle your senses! Enjoy a world-class concert performance of Eastern and Western repertoire by the Symphony. The merriment continues after the concert with an exotic gala dinner. Purchase your ticket to this dramatically beautiful Imperial Dinner. 

  • Address: SF Davies Symphony Hall on Grove and Van Ness
  • Phone: 415-503-5500
  • Hours: 10 am - 6 pm

CHINESE NEW YEAR PARADE  

Be in the thick of things by being a spectator at the Chinese New Year parade, the biggest parade celebrating the lunar new year outside of Asia with over 3 million spectators lining the streets of San Francisco! The pageantry includes marching bands, Chinese dance troupes, firecrackers, and countless floats are featured. You'll be awestruck by the 28-foot Golden Dragon manned by more than 100 people to weave through the streets. Miss Chinatown USA and her court, the main feature, ends the parade. Secret Tip: If you don't want to hold your spot for hours and stand, buy tickets for $35.00 to sit on bleachers here. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019 starts at 5:00 pm and snakes through the streets of San Francisco

CHINESE NEW YEAR PAGEANT

For something with glitz and glamour, gather friends to watch Miss Chinatown USA pageant. Bet on and cheer for your favorite! For nearly 60 years, young ladies from across the United States come to San Francisco to compete for the title, scholarships, jewelry, and prizes. Many obtain job opportunities after the contest. The pageant has several categories of competition. The talent portion gives you a chance to see traditional Chinese dances, singing, Western dance moves, ancient instrument performances and more. Miss Chinatown USA and her court serve as goodwill ambassadors for Chinese globally and is the highlight at the end of the Chinese New Year Parade.

  • February 16, 2019
  • 7:30 PM – 10:30
  • Palace of Fine Arts 3601 Lyon Street
  • Tickets range from $40-$70

SMELL THE FLOWERS AT THE FLOWER FAIR

Chinese New Year is a celebration of spring. In San Francisco, the Flower Fair is a one-stop shopping place to prepare one's home for festivities with vital symbolic and auspicious items. More than 120 booths abundant with fresh fruits, fragrant flowers, seeds, candies, red envelopes, couplets, and other necessities, makes it a shoppers heaven. Chinese acrobats, opera singers, magicians, folk dancers perform to the delight of shoppers. Grant Ave from Clay to Broadway and Pacific, Jackson and Washington between Stockton and Kearny Streets. 

  • Free
  • Saturday, February 2, 2019 
  • 10 am - 8 pm
  • Sunday, Feb 3, 2019
  • 9 am - 6 pm

DRAGON SEED

Dress like an elegant China Doll! A well-kept secret, this is the "go-to" shop for pageant contestants vying for the crown! Keep your eyes open as you will most like see beauties competing for the title in the Miss Chinatown USA. A variety of exotic sequin and embroidered cheongsams will dazzle your eyes! Insider tip: You can negotiate with the owner for purchases. Look like a queen without spending like one by renting your ensemble!

 

Sharon Seto Family Tradition

My dear mom was a fabulous cook and loved to entertain her family and friends. Often times on weekends, mom would have up to 100 people in her home for lively gatherings. There were mah-jongg tables, Card tables, Karaoke, and even ballroom dancing! For her guests, mom’s dinners were the highlight. During Chinese New Year, or other special occasions, mom would make these very special Wu Gok dumplings. I submitted this to a CNY recipe contest to a famous cook book author and won! Enjoy with wishes of good health, prosperity and love from our home to yours for Chinese New Year! Gung Hay Fat Choy!

 

Sharon Seto’s Wu Gok Dumplings Recipe

The Skin
1 Yam, about 1 1/3 pounds
9 tables spoons tapioca starch
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon five spice powder
1 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
3/4 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Oil for deep frying

The Filling
Mix all ingredients below in a large bowl and put in refrigerator.
9 ounces Char Siu (or stir fried ground pork, lightly flavored with salt and touch of sesame), diced
1 small onion, diced fine
1 small carrot, diced
1/3 cup frozen peas, th

awed
1/2 cup oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
3/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons Kikkoman soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1) With a peeler, remove skin off the yam and cut into pieces to steam in a pot for about half hour over boiling water until soft. Mash the yam and set aside in a bowl.
2) On a clean surface, mix tapioca starch with boiling water gradually and knead to form a dough.
3) Put in shortening, five spice powder, sesame oil, sugar, white pepper and salt with the dough. Mix together well and divide in 12 parts. Flatten the portions into a circle.
4) Place fillings in the center for each flatten circle. Seal the circle by pinching the ends together to form a half circle dumpling.
5) Heat oil in a deep wok. When oil is ready, fry the dumplings until it is golden brown.

 

 

 

Teresa Rodriguez
About the author

Teresa Rodriguez is the Editor-in-Chief of Where and Epicure magazines in San Francisco. She author...