Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year or Spring Festival — no matter what you call it, the annual holiday that signifies the turn of the Chinese calendar is a major affair in Las Vegas.
Around almost every corner you’ll find ceremonial lion dances, red lanterns and gold coins strung amply throughout the casinos, and large displays of the zodiac animal, which this year happens to be a lovable dog.
Occurring on the second new moon after the winter solstice, Chinese New Year 2018 runs from February 16 to March 2, with many of the city’s top Asian eateries offering special menus of traditional foods meant to bring good fortune and prosperity.
Here are four Vegas spots that will make you say, “Gung Hay Fat Choy!” (Happy New Year!).
Hong Kong Café
You’ve never had dinner with a view quite like this. Just outside The Palazzo’s Hong Kong Café rests a 16-foot-tall Chinese Shar-Pei named Vincenzo Li, this year’s Lunar New Year mascot, symbolizing good fortune and protection.
The colossal canine took 10 months to create, requiring a team of 86 artisans, a feng shui master and Forbes Travel Guide Four-Stars The Venetian and The Palazzo’s in-house floral and horticulture team to complete. Vincenzo is covered in artificial fur and has nine other friends positioned throughout the resorts, including a three-foot hare.
Inside Hong Kong Café, you’ll find even more to capture the eye, starting with the Chinese New Year-themed cocktail offerings. Some of the drinks are made from Johnnie Walker Blue, which unveils a special artist series bottle for the holiday every year.
Another attention-grabbing aspect of the restaurant’s holiday fun is the curated menu of snacks, such as salt-and-pepper beef skewers and crabmeat wontons.
This recently opened retro Chinese eatery located within MGM Grand may be the new kid on the block, but it certainly isn’t shy. Inside the elegant, pop-art-lined dining room of China Tang, you’ll be entertained by visual delights that transport you to Concession-era Shanghai. A glamorous torch singer serenades you in front of a pink grand piano with spontaneous noodle-pulling shows in between performances.
Start your evening off with a creative selection of sips from the bar. The historically based cocktail menu is divided into two parts: pre-Opium War era (refreshers like the classic gin-based Singapore Sling) and post-colonial era with the sweet and tart Hong Kong Gimlet (vodka, lime juice and yuzu foam).
One of the restaurant’s grand dinner presentations contains duck carved tableside and served with paper-thin pancakes, sweet bean paste, fresh garlic and refined sugar that, when sprinkled on the gamey bird’s fatty skin, makes it melt on the tongue.
Other must-trys are the perfectly tucked soup dumplings, the whole fish with bean curd and the surprisingly light shrimp fried rice — all dishes sure to bring the best of luck in the New Year.
Celebrate the Year of the Dog with something a little different at renowned chef José Andrés’ temple to the dynamic fusion flavors of Chinese and Mexican cooking.
Situated within Four-Star The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, China Poblano hosts a sensational annual Chinese New Year tasting menu that you won’t want to miss. This year’s six-course offering, available from February 16 through March 2, is tasty and approachable with traditional elements prepared for modern palates.
Look for succulent savories, such as mung bean noodle dumplings, raw yellowtail with Chinese mustard and a “lucky lamb” dunked in an addictive, slurp-worthy broth with silver needle oat noodles.
And while it may not be the year of the dragon, the Dragon’s Pearl dessert comes as a rewarding finish with fresh flavors of coconut tapioca, white sesame ice cream, matcha meringue and lychee boba.
Hakkasan Las Vegas
During February, this Forbes Travel Guide Recommended restaurant is serving up a menu of traditional tastes to help you ring in the New Year.
Dried oyster with lotus root, braised beef tongue, wok-fried native lobster and baked Chilean sea bass with kumquat glaze are some of the time-honored plates found on Hakkasan Las Vegas’ thoroughly modern Cantonese menu. Each dish is meant to bring luck, joy and prosperity.
Save room for dessert, when you’ll be served the Golden Fortune — a sweet and earthy treat made of ginger caramel, roasted macadamia nuts and lemongrass.
In what has become a yearly tradition plucked from Chinese lore, find a “wishing tree” of red ribbons hung on the restaurant’s wooden lattices, where you can anonymously share your hopes for the coming year.