The smoke from thousands of firecrackers and incense sticks wafted through Manhattan’s Lower East Side as New Yorkers rang in the Year of the Snake at the city’s annual Chinese New Year extravaganza. What better way to celebrate than with a cocktail? Here are our five favorite venues for China-inspired traditional food — and not-so-traditional cocktails. By Jonathan Pogash.
Momofuku Ssam Bar
At Momofuku Ssam Bar (more Asian-fusion than typical Chinese), try the McKenzie Shrub: (Rye whiskey, Cocchi Americano, pomegranate and coconut). You may also want to get your hands on a classic Penicillin cocktail (scotch whisky, honey, lemon, and ginger). Food-wise, you can try a varied selection of hams, as well as P.E.I. mussels and dry-aged sirloin steak tartare. Save room for dessert – sweet potato ice cream and chocolate parfait are on the list. CIA molecular mixology/gastronomy superstar Dave Arnold just took over the bar program at newly opened “Booker & Dax” (part of Momofuku Ssam) – so you’ll have to try some of his concoctions, as well.
King Yum Restaurant
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At King Yum Restaurant in Queens you can enjoy a libation from their “exotic drinks” menu. With tiki-inspired names and ingredients, you really can’t go wrong. They have a Zombie (light & dark rums and fruit juices), Mai Tai (with Jamaican rum), and the Boco Loco (cocounut milk, light rum, Cointreau, served in a fresh coconut shell). The Moo Goo Gai Pan, Chicken Almond Ding, and Sizzling Seafood Go Ba are always crowd pleasers. Go with a group – you’ll have fun selecting from the extensive menu and gazing at the large tiki mask in the middle of the room.
Mr. Chow (Upper East Side and TriBeCa)
With two Mr. Chow outposts in NYC (Upper/Midtown East and TriBeCa), you can enjoy a celebratory specialty cocktail or glass of champagne to ring in the Chinese New Year. If you’re in the mood for upscale Chinese food, they this is the spot for you. We like their scallion pancakes, Korean meat, and pot stickers. If you want to be experimental, go for their frog legs, jelly fish, or beef tongue.
Joe's Shanghai Restaurant
Joe’s Shanghai Midtown offers a nice-sized cocktail menu. On it, the organic cucumber saketini, at $9, is a deal. Blending Crop Organic cucumber vodka and premium sake, it’s simple yet elegant. Sit at the bar to enjoy your cocktails and order some steamed dumplings to complete your New Year celebration.
Cocktails and Dim Sum at hip downtown eatery Chinatown Brasserie sound mighty fine to us. Try their special Frozen Mai Tai (Montecristo rum, pineapple, lime, and orgeat), or their Chili Mango Margarita (Tanteo tropical tequila, chili mango puree, triple sec, and sour mix). Any one of their steamed, pan fried, crispy, or specialty dim sums are terrific. You’ll be ringing in the Chinese New Year with style!