THE world will be welcoming the Chinese New Year, on Monday (February 8, 2016), with the fun, excitement and revelry of Lion and Dragon Dances, parades, tikoys (sticky rice cakes), stalls lining the streets of Chinatown selling lucky charms and food, and fireworks to shoo the bad spirits away. Families are also going to sit down together for auspicious meals to usher in the Year of the Fire Monkey, whether it be at home or in a Chinese restaurant.
So, hotels and restaurants are offering Chinese lauriat menus that feature auspicious dishes believed to bring luck to diners and attract good fortune and vibes.
Just last Thursday, February 4, 2016, my husband Raff and I joined New World Manila Bay Hotel’s director of communications Mina Gervacio and a few other members of the lifestyle media to sample the Chinese New Year menu offered at Li Li, the hotel’s Chinese restaurant which specializes in Cantonese cuisine.
Hong Kong Master Chef Andy Chan has created two special Chinese New Year 10-course prosperity lunch and dinner set menus designed to serve 10 persons.
The first Chinese New Year menu features Suckling Pig with Jelly Fish, Japanese Conpoy Soup with Abalone Shell and Seafood, Braised Dried Oysters with Sea Moss, Wok-fried Prawns with Dried Fungus in Black Bean Sauce, Steamed Live Garoupa with Crispy Minced Bean, Baked in Bouillon Scallops with Shrimp Mousse and Lobster Sauce, Bean Curd Sheet Roll with Vegetables in Dried Scallop Sauce, Fried Glutinous Rice with Air-dried Meat, Chilled Mango Cream with Pomelo, and Pan-fried Glutinous Rice Cake with Sesame Balls, for Php23,888 for 10 persons. This menu can also be ordered at Php2,688 net per person for a minimum of four persons.
The second Chinese New Year menu consists of Suckling Pig with Jelly Fish, Braised Bird’s Nest Soup with Seafood and Japanese Conpoy, Braised Dried Oyster and Hair Moss Filled with Melon in Abalone Sauce, Baked in Bouillon Scallops with Shrimp Mousse and Crab Roe, Pan-fried Cod Fish in Champagne Lemon Sauce, Braised Whole Abalone and Sea Cucumber in Premium Oyster Sauce, Simmered Boneless Chicken with Chinese Wine in Casserole, Fried Glutinous Rice with Air-dried Meat, Chilled Mango Pudding, and Pan-fried Glutinous Rice Cake with Sesame Balls, priced at Php36,888 for 10 persons, or Php4,088 net per person for a minimum of four persons.
Li Li also offers an a la carte selection of auspicious dishes, such as Braised Dried Oysters with Hair Moss, Whole Abalone and Sea Cucumber (Php888 per person), Baked in Bouillon Scallops with Shrimp Mousse and Rice Cake (Php888 per person), Roasted Hong Kong Chicken with Crispy Garlic (Php680 for half chicken), Wok-baked Cod Fillet Glazed with Honey Pepper Sauce (Php1,388 per order), Steamed Stuffed Japanese Mushrooms with Shrimp Mousse in Crab Coral Sauce (Php988 per order), Fried Glutinous Rice with Air-dried Meat (Php68, and Pan-fried Glutinous Rice Cake Coated with Eggs (Php200).
What we sampled last Thursday were dishes picked from the two set menus as well as from the a la carte menu. Since dumplings symbolize wealth, as they are shaped much like ancient gold, and the Chinese believe that the more dumplings you consume during Chinese New Year, the more money is coming your way, the group started with a number of dumplings or dim sum. We had “Har Gao” (you can never go wrong with steamed shrimp dumplings!), Deep-fried Taro Dumplings Filled with Assorted Seafood (whose finely crunchy taro shell complemented the flavorful seafood filling), Steamed Sio Mai with Abalone Shell (that piece of abalone on top makes a world of difference in taste), Steamed Fresh Scallops with Flying Fish Roe (a lovely green dumpling with a fresh new taste), Pan-fried Spinach Dumplings with Shrimps (another top favorite, as I love seafood and spinach), and Xiao Long Bao (little dumpling “bags” with a soupy filling).
We also had a taste of Li Li’s version of Pork Buns, called Baked Crispy Buns with Barbecued Pork, and is, as its name suggests, lightly crispy on the outside and savory on the inside.
Next up was Suckling Pig with Jelly Fish, the ultimate Chinese lauriat appetizer. Of all the cold cuts served in platters for lauriat meals, it is always the Suckling Pig with its crispy bubbled up skin and tender meat and the refreshing Jelly Fish strips that disappear the fastest because people love them. So Chef Andy Chan decided to offer just this combination.
Soup came in the form of Japanese Conpoy Soup with Seafood and Abalone Shell, a small bowl of which I finished to the last drop. You see, if there’s something on the Chinese lauriat menu that you should not miss, it’s the soups. Chinese soups are always wonderful. They’re tasty, and they play with colors, texture and aroma to whet your appetite.
Coming almost simultaneously were the mains—Steamed Stuffed Japanese Mushrooms with Shrimp Mousse and Crab Coral Sauce (lightly flavored but refreshing taste), Bean Curd Sheet Rolls with Vegetables in Dried Scallop Sauce (which had kailan leaves, or Chinese broccoli, for the vegetables, which are considered as a symbol of prosperity), and Wok-baked Cod Fillet Glazed with Honey Pepper Sauce (fish is an auspicious symbol for abundance, and the cod fish served was really delicious, melt-in-the-mouth tender like the premium sea bass)—served with Fried Rice with Assorted Meat in Lotus Leaf (it’s so good that you can easily finish a bowl of it). Rice, incidentally, symbolizes fertility and prosperity, so it’s a perfect part of any Chinese New Year meal.
For dessert, we had the inimitable Tikoy or Pan-fried Glutinous Rice Cake Coated with Eggs, just the way we like to load up on it every Chinese New Year. Also served were Masachi or Glutinous Dumplings with White Chocolate and Fine Peanuts (it’s actually like a sticky rice ball coated with finely ground peanuts, with white chocolate filling that oozes out with every bite), and Chilled Mango Pudding. The latter was my personal favorite since the mango was perfectly chilled and had just the right sweetness. A nice piece of sesame tuille, shaped into a cigar, came with it, and complemented the smooth texture of the pudding. Plus, it was so nicely styled, and I simply love beautiful desserts.
Li Li’s set 10-course menus and a la carte menu items can now be enjoyed in the Chinese restaurant, whose interiors are tastefully designed to blend Chinese and European influences, and look like a large penthouse apartment in Milan, Italy, or in Paris, France. Li Li has a main dining area, living room, library, drawing room and wine cellar. It also has five private rooms, which seat from eight to 20 guests and can be booked for private Chinese New Year lunches and dinners every day until February 11.
On February 8, which is Chinese New Year, New World Manila Bay Hotel comes alive with Chinese New Year revelries that kick off with heart-pounding traditional Lion and Dragon Dances, coin tossing and lighting of firecrackers at the Main Lobby and at the M.H. Del Pilar entrance at 11:00 a.m.
As a double-happiness treat, guests born in the Year of the Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992 and 2004) get to enjoy a complimentary lunch or dinner buffet with a minimum of two paying companions at Market Café on February 8. In addition, all diners at Market Café can try their luck at the spin-a-wheel of fortune and enjoy special fortune cookies courtesy of the God of Fortune on the same day.
New World Manila Bay Hotel has also made Tikoy, a traditional Chinese New Year sweet treat that represents abundance and good fortune, available for takeaway at Php888 each. The Tikoy comes packaged in an exquisite handbag.
For inquiries, orders or reservations, call 252-6888.
(New World Manila Bay Hotel is located at 1588 Pedro Gil corner M.H. Del Pilar, Manila.)