It may be only one week into the New Year, but bookings for Chinese New Year feasts are already moving at full speed.
Some restaurants - both hotel outlets and casual zi char eateries - are fully booked for reunion dinner on the eve, and some hotels are opening up more function rooms or multiple seatings to meet demand. Many restaurants have two seatings for dinner.
Among those that are already full on Chinese New Year's Eve - which falls on Feb 15 this year - is Crystal Jade Dining IN at VivoCity.
The Fullerton Hotel Singapore's Jade restaurant as well as the UOB Plaza and Parkroyal on Kitchener Road branches of the Si Chuan Dou Hua restaurant chain are fully booked for the first seating.
Both seatings at Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant at the Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel are also full, and the hotel's Grand Ballroom - opened to accommodate more diners - is also filling up fast.
At Hai Tien Lo in Pan Pacific Singapore, its newly renovated Pacific Ballroom will host a Chinese New Year buffet dinner, which includes live entertainment and a lucky draw.
Similarly, the newly revamped Hua Ting Restaurant in Orchard Hotel Singapore is fully booked, but diners can still get a seat at one of the hotel's function rooms.
Ms Tina Sim, general manager of Orchard Hotel Singapore, says diners made reservations after their reunion dinners last year. This accounts for about 40 per cent of the bookings for reunion dinners. Other establishments such as Crystal Jade and Peony Jade echo the same trend of diners booking a year in advance.
Others with limited seating include Ah Orh Seafood Restaurant in Bukit Merah, Golden Peony at Conrad Centennial Singapore, Min Jiang at Goodwood Park Hotel and Peony Jade at Keppel Club. Lunch bookings at Peony Jade on Feb 13 and 14 are almost full.
To meet the demand for dining out during Chinese New Year, all Crystal Jade outlets will be open on the second day of Chinese New Year, except for Crystal Jade Kitchen at Zhongshan Mall, says a spokesman for the restaurant chain.
So, if you have not made your bookings, it is time to get started.
The Sunday Times susses out 20 places to welcome the Year of the Dog.
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Zi char eateries
THE FAMOUS KITCHEN
What: The seafood restaurant offers set meals priced at $488++ for 10 people (50 per cent deposit required for reservation).
Highlights across the menus include braised ginseng chicken with dried scallops; steamed live soon hock; and whole abalone with sea cucumber and broccoli.
Where: Hong Heng Mansions, 54 Sembawang Road
When: Two seatings for eve of Chinese New Year (5 to 6.45pm, 7.30 to 9.30pm). Usual opening hours from 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30 to 10.30pm daily
What: A la carte and set meals (at least $100 deposit required for reservation) are available.
Prices start at $338++ (four to six people) for a menu which includes herbal chicken, steamed soon hock and steamed prawns.
Where: Block 262 Jurong East Street 24, 01-485
When: Two seatings for eve of Chinese New Year: 4.30 to 6.30pm, 7 to 9pm (outdoor seating only). Closed on Feb 16 and 17. Usual opening hours from 9.30am to 2.30pm daily, 5.30 to 10.30pm (Sundays to Thursdays), 5.30 to 11pm (Fridays and Saturdays)
Info: Call 6898-4767
KENG ENG KEE SEAFOOD ALEXANDRA
What: Three set menus (from $298 nett for five to six people, $100 deposit required for reservation) are available for Chinese New Year.
Highlights include boiled live prawns, roasted chicken with pipa sauce and steamed garoupa. Add a special Ten Treasure Pot ($288), which includes 10-head abalone, scallop and fish maw.
Where: Block 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, 01-136
When: Only 8.45pm seating left for eve of Chinese New Year, closed on Feb 16 and 17. Usual opening hours from noon to 2.30pm, 5 to 10pm daily
What: The seafood restaurant offers six set menus (from $228++ for four people, $100 deposit required for reservation), which include dishes such as fried butter prawns, steamed scallop with minced ginger and braised abalone and mushrooms with broccoli.
Where: 45 to 47 Joo Chiat Place
When: Limited seating for 6.30 to 8pm seating on eve of Chinese New Year, second seating from 8.30 to 10pm, closed on Feb 16. Usual opening hours from 11 to 1am (Mondays to Saturdays), 11am to midnight (Sundays)
What: Set menus start at $388++ for four to six people ($100 deposit required for reservation) and include dishes such as fish maw soup, prawns and Ah Orh's signature Teochew orh nee.
Where: Block 115 Jalan Bukit Merah, 01-1627
When: Two seatings (outdoors only) for eve of Chinese New Year, 5.30 to 7.30pm, 7.30 to 10pm. Closed on Feb 16 and 17. Usual opening hours from 11am to 2pm and 5.30 to 10pm daily
Info: Call 6275-7575
What: Toss to the Year of the Dog, with Golden Peony's Fortune 3D Meringue Yu Sheng ($888, good for 30 people or more), with abalone, salmon, crispy fish skin and a medley of julienned vegetables.
Other dishes include roast suckling pig filled with Shanghainese sticky rice, fritters and chicken floss ($338) and stir-fried half lobster topped with crispy XO chilli sauce ($38 a person). Chinese New Year set menus start at $100 a person.
What: Highlights from the set menus at Cherry Garden include pan-fried A4 Miyazaki wagyu topped with a barbecue garlic sauce (part of a menu priced at $288 a person); steamed dragon spot garoupa fillet with pickled chillies (part of a menu priced at $168 a person); and five-grain fried rice with Cantonese pork sausage (part of menus priced at $168 and $148 a person). Prices start at $98 a person (minimum of six diners) for the set menus.
What: Kick off a feast at The Fullerton Hotel's Jade restaurant, with the Eight Happiness Gold Rush Yu Sheng (from $78, order one day in advance), which includes house-made champagne jelly, edible gold leaf, honey pineapple and salmon.
A limited-edition yusheng is also available ($999, order three days in advance), created to look like a Pekingese dog, also known as a "lion dog" due to its resemblance to Chinese guardian lions, which are seen as bearers of good fortune.
Other highlights include poached yellow capsicum, mushroom and pork dumplings (from $16 a person for three pieces); and eight treasures pen cai ($78 a person, minimum of six people, order one day in advance), which includes house-made Fuzhou-style fish balls, roast duck, poached prawns and 10-head abalone. Prices start at $88 a person for a five-course menu.
Where: The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, 1 Fullerton Square
When: Jan 22 to March 2, 11.30am to 2.30pm (weekdays), 6.30 to 10.30pm daily; noon to 3pm (weekends and public holidays)
What: The newly revamped Hua Ting at Orchard Hotel celebrates the Chinese New Year with highlights such as double-boiled chicken soup with superior bird's nest and sea whelk; braised 10-head South African whole abalone with fa cai (black moss), dried oysters and seasonal greens in superior oyster sauce; and live soon hock with white peppercorn in casserole.
Prosperity set menus are priced from $108 or $138 a person (minimum of two people) and from $988 to $5,888 for 10 people.
Where: Orchard Hotel Singapore, 442 Orchard Road
When: Jan 29 to March 2, 11.30am to 2.30pm (weekdays), 11am to 2.30pm (weekends, eve of public holidays and public holidays), 6 to 10.30pm daily
What: To welcome the Year of the Dog, Hai Tien Lo's Wealth And Healthy Yusheng ($128 and $188), with imperial swiftlet's nest, Boston lobster and baby abalone, can be shaped into a dog's face (order three days in advance).
Other yusheng options include crab meat, barbecue chicken roll and scallops ($68 and $98). Chinese New Year menus are priced from $138.80 a person (minimum of six diners). There is also the classic fortune treasure pot ($328 and $478), with stewed chicken and whole abalone, or the premium wealth treasure pot ($398 and $598), with dried oysters and roast duck.
Where: Pan Pacific Singapore, 7 Raffles Boulevard
When: Jan 22 to March 2, 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm (daily except eve of Chinese New Year); 6 to 8pm, 8.30 to 10.30pm (eve of Chinese New Year)
What: If you are planning a carnivorous Chinese New Year, head to The Carvery.
The buffet features Sichuan spiced roast leg of lamb; kumquat chicken wrapped in cellophane paper; and Marmite bone-in pork ribs (Feb 15 to 18 only).
For a meaty twist to the traditional yusheng, the restaurant offers a pulled pork lohei ($38.80, available for takeaway), which includes fried fish skin, Granny Smith apple strips and white balsamic peach dressing.
Prices for the buffet from Jan 22 to March 2 (excluding Feb 15 to 18) are $46 an adult and $24 a child (lunch daily, noon to 2.30pm); $58 an adult and $30 a child (dinner from Mondays to Thursdays), $64 an adult and $32 a child (Fridays to Sundays). Prices are $48.80 an adult and $25 a child (Feb 15 to 18 lunch); $68.80 an adult and $36.80 a child (Feb 15 dinner, 5.30 to 7.30pm, 8 to 10pm); and $64 an adult and $32 a child (Feb 16 to 18 dinner).
Where: Park Hotel Alexandra, Level 7, 323 Alexandra Road
What: Ring in a bountiful year with Wan Hao's Imperial Pot of Prosperity ($688 and $1,088), which includes crispy oyster, Australian three-head abalone, whole pig trotter, sea cucumber, fish maw and braised Irish duck; as well as other new dishes such as braised South African 15-head dried abalone with goose web ($158++ a person); braised Iberico pork with Chinese sausage and yam in claypot ($38++ a portion); and crispy pig trotter with wolfberry sauce ($58++ a portion).
The restaurant also offers six yusheng options, all drizzled with kumquat sauce. They include lobster, scallop, tuna, salmon and caviar yusheng ($268++); and chicken bak kwa yusheng ($68 and $128). Set menus for dining on the eve of Chinese New Year at the Grand Ballroom (6 to 10pm) are priced from $108++ (minimum of four people). Book three days in advance.
Where: Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, 320 Orchard Road
When: Jan 16 to March 2, noon to 3pm (weekdays), 11.30am to 3pm (weekends), 6.30 to 10.30pm daily
What: Five festive menus (from $128 a person) are available at Man Fu Yuan.
Highlights include Prosperity Yu Sheng with Hokkaido scallops, salmon and sake goma sesame dressing; Man Fu Yuan Abundance Treasure Pot with 18 delicacies featuring braised sea cucumber with minced prawns and pork; signature Chinese tea-smoked duck with dang gui; and braised bird's nest soup with deer antlers.
New a la carte dishes include crispy noodles with lobster and double-boiled black truffle soup.
Where: InterContinental Singapore, 80 Middle Road
When: Feb 1 to March 2, 11.45am to 3pm (weekday lunch), 11.30am to 3.15pm (weekend lunch); 6.30 to 10.30pm (dinner daily)
What: Plan a feast of abundance at Min Jiang restaurant at Goodwood Park Hotel.
First, toss to great fortune with the Prosperity Salmon and Abalone Yu Sheng ($168++, dine-in only) - Min Jiang master chef Chan Hwan Kee's work of art where a Pekingese is perched on the foot of a mountain, along with sliced salmon, abalone, edible viola petals and a medley of vegetables.
Then, indulge in dishes including braised pig's trotter with sea treasures in claypot ($298++, $318.85 nett for takeaway including pot); and braised whole chicken with sea treasures in claypot ($288++, $308.15 nett for takeaway including pot), in which a whole spring chicken is flash-fried and then braised for an hour, while Australian 10-head abalones, dried oysters, king oyster mushrooms, dried scallops, white radish, fa cai (black moss) as well as gluten puffs are cooked separately. All ingredients are further steamed for 45 minutes before serving.
Where: Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road
When: Jan 29 to March 2, 11.30am to 2.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 11am to 2.30pm (Sundays), 6.30 to 10.30pm (dinner daily); eve of Chinese New Year: 6 to 8pm, 8.30 to 10.30pm
What: For a unique take on yusheng, go to Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant for its Bountiful Blessings Yusheng ($178 to $198), which features fugu sashimi displayed in the shape of a dog.
Diners can also choose to have Japanese amberjack (buri) sashimi (from $138). For the classic pen cai ($438 to $688), this year's rendition features fugu udon noodles made with fish paste. Set meals are priced from $888.
Where: Si Chuan Dou Hua restaurants at 60-01 Top of UOB Plaza 1, 80 Raffles Place (6535-6006); 01-99 Our Tampines Hub, Festive Mall, 1 Tampines Walk (6386-8113); Parkroyal on Beach Road, 7500 Beach Road (6505-5722); Parkroyal on Kitchener Road, 181 Kitchener Road (6428-3170)
When: Jan 15 to March 2, 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6 to 8pm and 8.30 to 10.30pm daily (all outlets except Our Tampines Hub open from 11am to 10pm daily)
What: Nine Chinese New Year set menus are available, featuring VLV's signature dishes, such as truffle London roasted fat duck; and crispy sakura chicken, along with festive items including braised stuffed abalone with fish maw and shrimp paste, dried oyster and black moss in abalone jus.
Each set includes yusheng with lobster, salmon and yellowtail with housemade passionfruit plum sauce. Prices start at $118++ a person (minimum two to dine) and $98++ for a vegetarian menu.
Where: Clarke Quay, 3A River Valley Road , 01-02
When: Jan 29 to March 2, closed on Feb 16 and 17, noon to 3pm, 6 to 11pm (Tuesdays to Sundays)
What: Special creations at the Bib Gourmand-rated Peony Jade include the Supreme Flowing Prosperity Gold Rush Lou Hei Yu Sheng ($268.88++ for eight to 10 people, order three days in advance). It comes with Canadian lobster, two-head Australian abalone, Japanese amberjack carpaccio, tuna, Norwegian salmon and pan-seared Hokkaido scallops, along with housemade apricot and peach jam dressing.
Another new dish is Reaping Prosperity, deep-fried Australian fresh oysters-on-shell ($48.88++, minimum of three people) with Jinhua ham infused with cha-siu.
Where: Keppel Club, 10 Bukit Chermin Road
When: Jan 31 to March 2, 11am to 2.30pm, 5.30 to 7.30pm, 8 to 10.30pm; Feb 15 to 17 (only Chinese New Year menus are available)
What: Usher in an auspicious Chinese New Year with seven set menus (from $118++ to $268++ a person, book two days in advance) at Yan. Try the restaurant's signature Shun De-style yusheng with salmon, yellowtail and lobster on a base of crispy fried vermicelli, sliced ginger, gold leaf, capsicum and spring onion. Other highlights include sauteed lobster fillet with egg white; steamed sea perch with light soya sauce; and braised deluxe seafood platter (order one day in advance, add to the set menu with a minimum of four people).
Where: 05-02 National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew's Road
What: Go to Crystal Jade Golden Palace for the new Garden of Wealth yusheng ($88 and $138), which include ingredients such as freeze-dried wolfberries, ice plant and wood sorrel red leaves, along with edible flowers and housemade caramelised deep-fried lotus root slices.
At Crystal Jade Palace, try the Hong Kong-style Treasure Pot ($338 and $498, order one day in advance) with 18 ingredients including housemade dace fish balls, prawn balls in tomato sauce, braised Chinese yam, lotus root, fish maw and braised pork. At the three fine-dining restaurants, set menus start at $108 a person (minimum two to dine).
Where: Crystal Jade Golden Palace, 05-22 Paragon (6734-6866); Crystal Jade Palace, 04-19 Ngee Ann City (6735-2388)
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