The Year of the Rabbit is hopping our way, symbolizing longevity, peace and prosperity in the Chinese lunar calendar. Lunar New Year weekend coincides with Tet, or the Vietnamese New Year, as well as Seollal, the Korean New Year. Lucky for us in the Bay, several pop-ups and new restaurants plan to open their doors in time to celebrate.
For the past several weeks, Cathay Bi has been hard at work folding dumplings in preparation for the grand opening of her pandemic project-turned-retail shop, Dumpling Club. Bi and her team will host a Lunar New Year party for the next three weekends. As of Thursday morning, she had nearly sold out, so don’t sleep on preordering dumplings for February. If you do miss the window, she’s offering dumpling classes as well.
Other pop-ups on both sides of the bay guarantee a sweet and savory start to the Lunar New Year. Red Envelope returns to buzzy Oakland cocktail bar Viridian next week. There’s another cocktail pop-up at Trade Routes in Polk Gulch called New Moon. The culinary team behind several East Bay establishments just debuted a new late-night lounge in Oakland Chinatown. But first, Michelin-starred dining destination Mister Jiu’s marks the Year of the Rabbit with holiday treats and the reopening of its upstairs cocktail bar, Moongate Lounge.
1. Moongate Lounge and Grand Opening Bakery
Just off a two-week holiday hiatus, this mid-century drinking den reopened in time to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Moongate Lounge serves cocktails inspired by the lunar calendar, with seasonal ingredients to fit each month. Sip on a blood orange and amaro tequila cocktail in one of the velvet high-back booths or, if you have a sweet tooth, head downstairs on Lunar New Year’s Day, when Mister Jiu’s will offer cakes, cookies and egg tarts at its Sunday bake sale.
2. New Moon at Trade Routes
Neighborhood joint Trade Routes celebrates Tet, Seollal and Lunar New Year with a holiday cocktail menu centered on ingredients from Vietnam, Korea and China. The “New Moon” is a baiju and rhum agricole drink served with pu-erh tea in a glass globe with a straw poking out. Oh, and it has conjured a 23-foot dragon to mark 2023.
3. Red Envelope Pop-Up at Viridian
This ’90s R&B- and Hong Kong-inspired craft cocktail bar is always striking, but come Lunar New Year, the Red Envelope pop-up transforms Viridian into a true sight to behold. Last year, a galaxy of paper lanterns shed a faint layer of light above the bar, with a golden dragon zig-zagging through it. (Not to mention, there was a two-hour or longer wait to get in.) Named for the traditional gifts given to children and seniors on Lunar New Year, Red Envelope cultivated those wait times based on rave reviews of its inventive bar snacks—the duck liver mousse doughnuts and baked Alaska with pandan ice cream were two of the highlights. This year’s pop-up runs from Jan. 25 to Feb. 26.
4. Lounge Chinatown
It’s hard to describe Chinese and Taiwanese night markets unless you’ve been to one, but this new nocturnal lounge is the closest approximation that Oakland Chinatown has to offer. The sister restaurant to other East Bay eateries Hot Pot Nation, Yoshio Sushi and Kaoru Sushi. Lounge Chinatown is a jack-of-all-trades kind of place. Feast on dumplings, bento boxes, hot pot and spicy chicken feet.
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]