For many Bay Area folks, the Lunar New Year is a time for big, rambunctious gatherings — whole extended families huddled around 10-top banquet tables after the Chinatown parade, everyone jockeying for prime Lazy Susan position. In case you hadn’t guessed, none of that’s happening this year. The holiday starts on Friday, February 12, with February 11 being the night for a traditional Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner. But even as some places have once again rolled out their outdoor setups, customary large gatherings for the holiday won’t be possible during the pandemic — not at home, and certainly not at a restaurant.
How, then, to ring in the Year of the Ox? The answer, as with so many celebrations this year, is takeout. Even with formal banquets off the table, diners looking to celebrate with a special take-home meal have no shortage of options.
Many restaurants are offering elaborate set meals — probably the closest thing you can get to a traditional banquet experience at home, scaled down to feed a smaller group:
Brandon Jew’s Michelin-starred Chinatown restaurant is mostly on hiatus right now, but it’s putting out two separate Chinese New Year meal kits for two — the first, available at the beginning of the holiday (February 12–13), is a five-course vegetarian feast ($88), in keeping with the Buddhist tradition of not eating meat. The second ($188), available at the end of the Lunar New Year holiday (February 26–27), includes a Dungeness crab dish and braised oxtails and short ribs.
One of the region’s top destinations for an elaborate custom banquet, this Millbrae restaurant, which specializes in the cuisine that aristocratic Chinese families’ personal chefs cooked during the late Qing dynasty, is offering three special set meals to feed three to five people, priced at $108, $168, and $268. Even the most affordable option features several of the restaurant’s signature dishes, like its creamy braised napa cabbage and crispy sweet-and-sour fish — plus a special tomato-based braised beef dish in honor of the Year of the Ox. For pickup on February 11 or 12, preorder by phone or via the restaurant’s WeChat account (ID: royal_feast), through which you can view the full menu (albeit in Chinese).
The Ghirardelli Square dim sum star is offering two Lunar New Year sets, priced at $138 and $198 (to feed four or six people, respectively) and available February 11 to 21. Highlights include lobster yifu noodles (which symbolize longevity) and, to satisfy the “ox” requirement, grilled bone-in black pepper short ribs.
The Bernal Heights dumpling specialist is staying on theme for the holiday with a $148 dumpling feast that comes with a whole Dungeness crab or lobster, plus two kinds of dumplings, two kinds of potstickers, and nine other appetizers and side dishes — and a bottle of Champagne to boot. It’s available Friday through Sunday for the entire month of February.
For Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar Year celebration, this buzzy San Francisco-based pop-up is offering a $150 “Year of the Ox Tết POWER PACK” on February 15 that’ll feed four to five people — thit kho (braised caramelized pork belly), garlic noodles, a porchetta with sticky rice, and more. Preorders start at noon on February 8.
This East Bay Sichuan skewer specialist isn’t doing a set menu, but it is offering a couple of festive winter dishes for Chinese New Year: cured duck leg ($11.99, served steamed to preserve its natural flavor) and stir-fried Sichuan cured bacon ($14.99) — both items smoked in-house with cypress branches.
The China Live complex’s high-end tasting-menu spot is doing a $176 Chinese New Year meal kit for two that includes chicken wings stuffed with glutinous rice, steamed ginger black cod, red-cooked DongPo pork, and more. It’s available February 12 to 14 and February 19 to 20.
Many of the Bay Area’s Cantonese restaurants are highlighting poon choi — a classic one-pot New Year’s meal full of auspicious seafood items and other luxury ingredients:
Koi Palace and Dragon Beaux
Considered two of the Bay Area’s finest dim sum spots, these sister restaurants are also offering take-home banquet sets, but they’re really emphasizing their poon choi, or “treasure pot,” which comes in a five-person ($198) or 10-person ($368) portion size. It’s available in a frozen version as well. Call the location closest to you to preorder.
Oakland Chinatown’s biggest dim sum parlor has a five-person portion poon choi for $138 and a version that feeds 10 for $238.
This Hong Kong-style Chinatown mainstay also has a whole slate of Lunar New Year specials, with the highlight being its take on the traditional “big bowl feast” — $138–$168 for a four- or six-person portion. It’s loaded with all of the classic ingredients, including abalone, pork belly, and dried oysters, and scallops. You can preorder by phone or online at least two days in advance.
If you’re looking for less of a traditional set meal and more of a fun variety box, these spots have you covered:
Farmhouse Kitchen Thai
Farmhouse Kitchen’s whole brand during the pandemic has been its highly Instagram-friendly takeout boxes, and its Lunar New Year offering is no exception: a three-tier tea set piled high with assorted dim sum (including custard-filled piggy buns) and, why not, some macarons.
La Cocina’s February 10 Lunar New Year-themed community food box features dishes from an assortment of up-and-coming female food entrepreneurs, from Taco Thai’s braised chicken and sticky rice to Noodle Girl’s Vietnamese braised pork. The order deadline is Friday, February 5.
Of course, no Lunar New Year celebration would be complete without its share of sweets:
The dessert-focused Oakland cocktail bar is selling several gorgeous Lunar New Year-themed cakes, including a “Lucky Candy Cake” (an almond cake with strawberry condensed milk pastry cream) that features the Chinese character for “fortune” written upside down — to let all “the fortune to pour out and flow more freely into your life.” Order online at least a week in advance.
The iconic French pastry shop will feature a special Lunar New Year-themed menu February 12–28, offering such delights as pandan kouign amann, mango pudding with evaporated milk, and Tiger Sugar tapioca pudding.
Oakland Fortune Cookie Company
Last but never least, this Oakland Chinatown-based fortune cookie company is selling its annual Lunar New Year gift sets — this year, the cookies have got the Chinese characters for “ox” and “luck” hand-painted onto them in gold. Order online.