If you plan to have reunion dinner with your family at a restaurant this Chinese New Year but have not checked out where to go, it is time to get started.
A SundayLife! check with 100 popular Chinese restaurants, hotel buffets and zichar eateries found that at least 20 places are already fully booked for reunion dinner on Jan 30 as of last Friday. Others are 70 to 80 per cent full.
Many diners had booked as early as right after last year's reunion dinner and more reservations started coming in six months ago, the restaurants say.
Places that are fully booked include LiBai Cantonese Restaurant at Sheraton Towers, Summer Pavilion at The RitzCarlton, Millenia Singapore, Beng Thin Hoon Kee Restaurant at OCBC Centre, Tung Lok Signatures at the Chinese Swimming Club and Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant in Keppel Road.
Some zi char restaurants, such as Keng Eng Kee Seafood Restaurant in Alexandra Village, are also full.
A check with Chinese restaurant group Paradise found that its 30 restaurants islandwide are all about 80 to 90 per cent full.
So, leave it any later and you will likely find yourself in a pickle.
SundayLife! has put together a list of 20 restaurants that are still taking reservations for dinner on Chinese New Year's eve.
Indeed, some restaurants have decided to increase the number of seatings and even expand into function rooms and ballrooms to cope with the increased demand.
Shang Palace at the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore has opened its luxurious Island Ballroom for reunion dinners this year. The meals there also include acrobatic and music performances.
Pu Tien, which has eight outlets islandwide including at VivoCity and Tampines Mall, will be offering four seatings for the first time this year. Last year, it had three. Its first seating starts at 4pm. The group decided to open a 4pm seating after receiving requests from diners.
A spokesman for Pu Tien says: "It could be because some of our diners have two rounds of reunion dinners with families from both the wife and the husband's side."
This year, interesting dishes to usher in the Year of the Horse include suckling pig stuffed with glutinous rice, yusheng made with items such as organic fruit and more exotic types of fish such as turbot.
Diners can also expect traditional favourites of braised abalone with fatt choy, Buddha Jumps Over The Wall soups, Peking duck, longevity noodles and pencai.
At most restaurants, prices are up by about five to 10 per cent, which restaurateurs attribute to increased labour costs and the higher cost of premium Chinese New Year ingredients and delicacies this year.
Ingredients such as abalone, preserved sausages and dried oysters have increased by between two and 10 per cent, restaurateurs say.
What: Peony Jade's two restaurants are full, but its Keppel Club outlet will be opening its function room to accommodate more diners. Be entertained by a lion dance and a three-piece Chinese orchestra, among other things. Dishes include suckling pig stuffed with glutinous rice; truffle-roasted chicken; and abacus seeds with lobster and abalone.
Where: Keppel Club, Bukit Chermin Road, Peony Jade Function Hall
When: The restaurant itself is fully booked, but there is still space in its pillarless function room. One seating only, from 6 to 10.30pm. Open throughout Chinese New Year.
Price: Set menus for 10 people range from $738++ to $1,688++
Info: Call 6276-9138 or 6276-8327
SI CHUAN DOU HUA
What: Tuck into dishes such as braised pork knuckle with red dates, Chinese wine and water chestnuts; and whole "Pi Pa" suckling pig with goose liver sauce. Yusheng here is served with black truffle and fresh turbot.
Where: 60-01 UOB Plaza, 80 Raffles Place
When: 8.30 to 10.30pm. The first seating at 6pm is fully booked. Open throughout Chinese New Year.
Price: The pork knuckle is priced at $48 a serving, while a 4 to 5kg suckling pig costs $258. Yusheng starts at $98 for a small serving.
Info: Call 6535-6006 or go to www.sichuandouhua.com
BLUE LOTUS CHINESE EATING HOUSE
What: Innovative takes on traditional dishes include organic pumpkin crab meat soup and deep-fried pomfret with lychee vinaigrette.
Where: 31 Ocean Way,01-13 Quayside Isle
When: Two seatings, at 6 and 8.30pm. The restaurant is closed on the first two days of Chinese New Year.
Price: Prices start at $88++ a person with a minimum of four diners.
Info: Call 6339-0880 or go to www.bluelotus.com.sg
What: Signature dishes for Chinese New Year include stir-fried yam and deep-fried chicken. Other popular dishes in its set menus include steamed soon hock, longevity noodles, Hua Diao fresh prawns and vegetables in XO chilli sauce.
Where: Eight outlets islandwide including Marina Square, 6 Raffles Boulevard, 02-205; VivoCity, 1 Harbourfront Walk, 02-131/132; and Tampines Mall, 4 Tampines Central 5, B1-27
When: Three seatings for dinner parties of seven or more people - 4 to 5.30pm, 6 to 7.30pm and 8 to 9.30pm.
For dinner parties of seven people and less, there are four seatings - 4 to 5.15pm, 5.45 to 6.30pm, 7 to 8.15pm and 8.30 to 9.45pm. Open throughout Chinese New Year.
Price: A seven-course meal starts at $98 a person, with a minimum of two people.
Info: Call 6336-4068 (Marina Square), 6376-9358 (VivoCity), 6781-2162 (Tampines Mall), or go www.putien.com
What: Feast on dishes that range from braised abalone with fish maw to baked king prawns to crispy duck with dang gui sauce. Other dishes in the restaurant's set menus include wok-fried glutinous rice with waxed meats and dried conpoy.
Where: Ion Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, 04-07
When: Only the 4pm seating is available. The other two seatings at 6 and 8pm are fully booked. Closed on the first day and resumes business on the second day.
Price: Set menus start at $98 a person (minimum of two people) for a seven- course meal.
Info: Call 6509-9660
CRYSTAL JADE PALACE RESTAURANT
What: A nine-course set menu for 10 people includes a whole suckling pig, shark's fin soup with dried halibut, abalone, baked live Boston lobsters and fried glutinous rice with preserved meats.
Where: 391 Orchard Road, Ngee Ann City, 04-19
When: Two seatings - 6 and 8.15pm. Closed on the first two days of Chinese New Year.
Price: A nine-course set menu for 10 people starts at $1,798++.
Info: Call 6735-2388
What: Here, dishes in the restaurant's various Prosperity Set Menus include a mini Buddha Jumps Over The Wall soup; king prawns; Kurobuta spare ribs; and Emperor Fried Pearl Rice, wok-fried with baby abalone, diced smoked duck, diced green and golden egg yolk.
Where: One Fullerton,1 Fullerton Road, 01-02/03
When: Two seatings - 5.30 and 8.30pm. Closed for lunch on the first day of Chinese New Year, open for dinner. Open thereafter throughout Chinese New Year.
Price: A five-course menu for a minimum of two diners starts at $98 a person.
Info: Call 6224-0088
What: Szechuan Court's masterchef Mok Wan Lok has crafted eight Lunar New Year set menus.
Signature items include a prosperity pot, seafood yusheng shaped in the form of the Mandarin character for horse, as well as a foie gras golden treasure bun, and Shanghai dumpling in superior bird's nest consomme.
Where: Fairmont Singapore, Level 3, 80 Bras Basah Road
When: Only the second seating from 8.30 to 10.30pm is available, the first seating is fully booked.
Price: From $318++ for four people
Info: Call 6431-6156 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Pick your reunion feast from four traditional set menus with highlights such as braised supreme bird's nest with brown sauce; braised golden dried oyster stuffed with minced pork and winter melon with dried scallop; steamed lobster medallions with egg white, Chinese wine and pan-fried Hokkaido scallop; and seafood dumplings with golden pumpkin sauce.
Where: Capella Singapore, 1 The Knolls, Sentosa
When: Two seatings at 6 and 8.30pm for Chinese New Year's Eve and the first two days of Chinese New Year
Price: $69++ (Spring Menu for lunch only); from $119++ a person for the other three menus
Info: Call 6591-5045 or go to www.capellasingapore.com
SHANGRI-LA HOTEL SINGAPORE
What: Even though Shang Palace is fully booked, the hotel has opened up its Island Ballroom to accommodate more guests - with food from the restaurant too.
Dishes include yusheng; bird's nest with lobster meat and jing hua ham; and baked cod fish with miso sauce.
There will also be acrobatic and music performances.
Where: Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, 22 Orange Grove Road
When: Only one seating from 6.30 to 11pm at the Island Ballroom, as Shang Palace is fully booked
Price: $138++ a person
Info: Call 6213-4473
What: Welcome a year of bounty with a buffet spread including yusheng with tuna, sea whelk, hamachi and salmon; duck leg confit with kumquat; beef cheek braised in red wine sauce; and live oysters shucked upon order and sashimi.
Where: The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, 7 Raffles Avenue
When: 6.30 to 10.30pm
Price: $178++ (adult, with free flow wine, beer, juices and soft drinks), $69++ (child aged six to 12 years), $34.50++ (child aged three to five years)
Info: Call 6337-8888
What: Get together with your family and have your fill at The Terrace, with an assortment of drunken chicken, fresh seafood on ice, steamed snappers and roasted pork shoulder.
For dessert, save space for the Golden Mandarin Orange Cake, as well as traditional goodies including pineapple cookies, love letters, kueh bangkit and peanut cookies.
Where: The Sentosa, A Beaufort Hotel
When: Chinese New Year's Eve and first day of Chinese New Year, 6.30 to 9.30pm
Price: $68++ (adult), $38++ (child)
Info: Call 6371-1414 or e-mail email@example.com
What: Choose between a six- and eight-course set menu which feature premium sustainable ingredients such as South Australian Yellowtail kingfish and Irish organic Atlantic salmon in the yusheng. Other dishes include wok-fried Spencer Gulf wild prawns with lemongrass and chicken floss; and steamed New Zealand snapper with gingko nuts, mushrooms and ginseng.
Where: Grand Hyatt Singapore, 10 Scotts Road
When: 6 to 10.30pm
Price: $118++ a person (six-course), $168++ a person (eight-course)
Info: Call 6732-1234
WHITE ROSE CAFE
What: Tuck into a traditional Chinese banquet fare with dishes such as shark's fin soup with crab meat; braised sea cucumber with black mushroom and fish maw; poached whole drunken herbal chicken; and stewed pork knuckle with black mushrooms.
Where: York Hotel, 21 Mount Elizabeth
When: 6.30 to 10.30pm
Price: $60 (adult), $30 (child)
Info: Call 6830-1156
ZI CHAR RESTAURANTS
AH ORH SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
What: Choose from three set menus which all include yusheng, Teochew- style steamed pomfret, top shell with Thai sauce and braised chicken.
Other dishes include braised sea cucumber with fish maw and prawn rolls.
Where: Block 115 Jalan Bukit Merah, 01-1627
When: Two seatings on Chinese New Year's Eve at 5.30 and 7.30pm, with outdoor dining available. Closed on the first and second days of Chinese New Year. Normal opening hours are 11am to 2pm and 5.30 to 9pm daily.
Price: Set menus from $288. Bookings must be made in person, with a deposit of $100.
Info: Call 6275-7575
KIMLY LIVE SEAFOOD
What: Have a hearty reunion dinner at this seafood eatery, which has set meals for six or 10 diners. For a table of 10, the nine-course meal ($438) features prawns, duck and the signature fried beehoon. The $488 dinner menu includes a crab dish.
Where: Tradehub 21, 18 Boon Lay Way, 01-98
When: Two seatings on Chinese New Year's Eve at 5 and 9pm are still available. The 7pm seating is fully booked. Closed on the first day of Chinese New Year. Normal opening hours resume on the second day, from 4 to 11pm daily.
Price: Set menus from $288. Bookings must be made in person, with a minimum deposit of $100, depending on the set menu ordered.
Info: Call 6686-4665
What: Chinese New Year set meals include a variety of dishes including yusheng, shark's fin soup and abalone.
Where: 30B Keong Saik Road
When: Only the 8.30pm seating on Chinese New Year's Eve is available for booking. The 5 and 7pm seatings are fully booked. Open throughout the Chinese New Year period at normal operating hours from 11.30am to 2.30pm and 3.30 to 11.30pm daily
Price: Set menus from $298++. Bookings must be made in person, with a deposit of $50.
Info: Call 6223-2005
7TH MILE SEAFOOD
What: Four set menus are available with dishes such as salmon yusheng, whole abalone with spinach and oyster sauce steamed chicken.
Other menu highlights include crab beehoon, yam ring, 7th Mile pork ribs and salted egg prawns.
Where: Block 18 Toh Yi Drive, 01-97
When: Two seatings on Chinese New Year's Eve at 5 and 7pm. Closed on the first and second days of Chinese New Year. Normal opening hours from 11am to 11pm daily.
Price: Set menus from $188. Bookings must be made in person, with a minimum deposit of $100, depending on the set menu ordered.
Info: Call 6466-0833
SIN HOI SAI SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
What: Pick from three sumptuous set menus which all kick off the Chinese New Year with yusheng. Other decadent dishes include lobster in cream sauce, fried prawns with quail egg, crispy chicken, and fried red garoupa in lotus leaf.
Where: Block 55 Tiong Bahru Road, 01-59
When: Two seatings on Chinese New Year's Eve at 4 and 8.30pm, only outdoor seating is available. The 6.30pm seating is fully booked. Open throughout the Chinese New Year period at normal operating hours from 5pm to 5am daily.
Price: Set menus from $398++ for 10 people. Bookings must be made in person, with a minimum deposit of $100.
Info: Call 6223-0810 or 6224-3905
What: Five set menus are available, with menu highlights such as Hong Kong- style steamed red garoupa, stir-fried scallop with broccoli, mixed mushroom crispy noodles, as well as the signature butter pork ribs.
Where: Block 116 Commonwealth Crescent, 01-129
When: Three seatings on Chinese New Year's Eve at 5, 7 and 9pm. Open throughout the Chinese New Year period at normal operating hours from 11.30am to 2.30pm and 5.30 to 11.30pm daily.
Price: Set menus from $188. Bookings must be made in person, with a deposit of $50.
Info: Call 6472-5361