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8 Places to Ring in the Year of the Snake

Posted January 30, 2013 by Jessie Chien Bryson in Dining Out
Snake Stuffed Animals

Chinese New Year falls on Sunday, February 10, 2013, kicking off the Year of the Snake. Snake personalities are said to be acute, cunning, aware, proud, vain and vicious at times. So if you’re one of these smart-talking, wise-assed, hot-headed, loveable yet gregarious representatives of reptilian frenzy, let’s toast. Because frankly, I’m a bit scared of you.

Though Chinese New Year is a one-day holiday, celebrations in China typically extend for two weeks, with plenty of eating and drinking and all around holiday-style gluttony. And since the number 8 is considered lucky in Chinese culture (you’ll see it everywhere now that you know to look), it’s only fitting to catch these 8 DC joints starting February 9, to start the Year of the Snake right:

1. Hollywood East Cafe

Do what every Chinese person in the metropolitan area will be doing New Year’s morning–standing in line for 2 hours for dim sum.  The dim sum carts will be out in full force at Hollywood East Cafe until 3 pm, serving up traditional Hong Kong style dim sum.  Lion dance performances will be scheduled regularly throughout the day to offer everyone good luck and happiness for the new year.

2. Tsingtao Scavenger Hunt

Nothing says “New Year” like some booze. This is standard in American culture, in European culture, and yes, in Asian culture as well. Though the toast of choice in mainland China is a lighter liquor called bai jiu (“white wine”), I’d prefer to gather with friends and throw back some beer to toast the New Year. This year, join the Tsingtao Scavenger Hunt in Chinatown for New Year celebrations. Registration is a measly $15, plus proceeds benefit the Chinese Benevolent Association.

3. Toki Underground

Noodles are one of the most lucky of New Years’ dishes, quite possibly because noodles are also the simplest of staples, consumed by the poorest of peasants and richest of kings. Noodles are a symbol of long life–the longer the noodle, the longer you’ll avoid the inevitable. We here in DC look to cities like LA and NY with lots of ramen envy, but we’ve got a little bit of ammo up our sleeves with H street’s Toki Underground. A special Chinese New Year cooking class with head chef Erik Bruner-Yang sold out long ago, but you can still slurp up some ramen and hope for better luck next year. Remember, don’t bite off those noodles.  Live long and prosper.

4. Zentan

In Chinese, the word for fish is a homonym for abundance, and symbolizes just that.  Traditionally fish is served steamed and whole–representing prosperity for the whole year, head to tail. Zentan has a perfectly traditional black bean, chili and ginger Hong Kong style fish, not to mention a few other fishy selections as well. Best yet, Restaurant Week falls during the holiday, so do what the Chinese do best, and grab a good deal while reservations are still available!

5. Ping Pong Dim Sum

Sweet things bring in a sweet year.  That seems pretty straightforward, right? In addition to a host of events during the two weeks of Chinese New Year, Ping Pong Dim Sum is offering a Valentine’s Day tasting menu chock full of sweet goodness. You’re killing two birds with one stone here–loading yourself and your date full of aphrodisiacs as well as ringing in the Chinese New Year with some sweetness. Plus, for $60 per couple, it’s pretty sweet for your wallet as well.

6. Zengo

In case you were wondering, yes, there is a symbolic meaning for almost every dish in the Chinese culture. Duck represents loyalty in relationships, so head to Zengo for the crispy skinned Peking duck for Chinese New Year brunch ($35). Let’s be real, the focus of any holiday is being with loved ones anyway, so keep it loyal. And then keep it real with bottomless mimosas.

7. The Source

Little pockets of meat and veggies, who can’t get with that? It’s said that dumplings represent the little gold nuggets used as currency in old school China. So every year, I eat as many dumplings as I can in hopes to make it big. It hasn’t worked yet, but I’m still working on my dumpling fluffy bunny skills. This year, The Source’s Dumpling Cooking Class by Chef Scott Drewno is $75 and includes a complimentary glass of sparkling wine plus a family-style dumpling meal afterwards.

8. Chinese New Year Parade

Chinese New Year isn’t a celebration without parades, lion dances, acrobats, live music and loud firecrackers to ward off demons and pickpockets. Over 40,000 people will be in attendance, and the parade will be televised to 40 million nationwide. Don’t miss the action February 10 at 2 pm in Chinatown at 6th & I Streets, NW.


About the Author

Jessie Chien Bryson

Jessie came to DC via China via New York via Los Angeles, and admittedly with a bit of a chip on her shoulder. "What's so good about DC?" thought the politics-ignorant, anti-monogram-wearing, cupcake-hating, self-proclaimed hostess extraordinaire and California native. The answer, she found, is everything. Between balancing a burgeoning writing career and slingin' cheese at Union Market, she is happily exploring what the District has to offer - mainly in the form of manhattans and variations of bacon/sushi/sandwiches.