On February 7, the Chinese community—and a few others of us—will be celebrating the start of the year 4706 on the Asian lunar calendar, the “year of the rat.” If the designation sounds less than appealing, consider that the celebration of Chinese New Year can go on for weeks, and it traditionally kicks off with a sumptuous banquet. These dinners, often of a dozen courses or more, are served not just in homes, but also in restaurants.
The dishes served are filled with symbolism. For example, crescent-shaped potstickers are said to resemble ancient Chinese money and represent wealth and prosperity, and noodles, which are never to be cut, stand for longevity. The dinners I have enjoyed over the years included multiple appetizers and everything from crab, lobster, or whole fish to the traditional vegetarian rice dish known as Buddha’s Delight.
But perhaps my favorite dish in this or any Chinese meal is a classic Peking duck, which is traditionally a multicourse sequence itself: first, a platter of crisp, crackling skin, then a preparation of boneless meat, and finally a soup simmered from the leftover bones. One of the best versions of this treat I’ve sampled locally has been at Relax Restaurant on Eat Street.
The former Yummy is under new ownership, and I’ve been delighted by much of the food I’ve sampled there—including the two-course (skin and meat), $17.95, no-need-to-order-ahead Peking duck entrÃ©e. Indeed, there have been so many great dishes—the pea tips with garlic, braised bean curd and grouper hot pot, clams in black bean sauce—that I’ve decided Relax is where I’ll be ringing in 4706. Gung hay fat choy