The 8th of February heralds the Chinese New Year and 2016 is the year of the Monkey. With some similarities to the Western zodiac, an animal is attributed to each year in a twelve year cycle and a person born in that year is said to adopt some of the characteristics of that animal. Somebody who is born in the year of the monkey is apparently playful, lively and a bit of a practical joker – I think we all know a few monkeys….
Mr S and I were invited to one of our favourite restaurants, Hakkasan Hanway Place, to celebrate this auspicious occasion and to sample the limited edition Chinese New Year Menu.
We began our New Years’ feast with the 9 Hóu cocktail which consisted of Eldorado rum, sherry, banana, guava, lime, agave syrup and walnut. I was pretty convinced I wasn’t going to like this as from the description as it sounded so sweet but actually it had a lovely tart flavour that cut through the sweetness and I really enjoyed it. I liked the cute monkey charm that came with it too! The legend goes that the Buddha invited the animals in the kingdom to take part in a race to see who would be included in the zodiac and in what order. The monkey came ninth, hence the name of the cocktail and the nine elements that have gone into making it – yes, I only counted seven too and I’m not sure what the other two are.
The first dish on the tasting menu was double boiled fresh ginseng and chicken soup with bamboo pith and wolfberry. Now, ginseng is considered an important component of Chinese medicine, where as chicken soup is considered an important part of Jewish medicine (it’s Jewish penicillin don’t you know 😉 ). So of course this soup cleared up any sniffles that we had with the salty broth and succulent pieces of chicken.
Next were the small eats, Japanese Wagyu beef with pine nuts in a small golden cup of pastry and a light salad of pomegranate seeds. A beautiful combination of the meat, spring onions and mango, it was slightly sweet and the beef was beautifully cooked.
Now my absolute favourite bit of the meal…
As I mentioned before Mr S and I love Hakkasan and I don’t think we’ve ever not ordered the dim sim platter.
Including har gau, scallop shumai, Chinese chive and duck and yam bean dumpling…
Each was a beautifully steamed pocket of pastry stuffed with a succulent filling and bursting with flavour. The dim sum at Hakkasan and Yauatcha (the sister restaurant) are quite simply the best I’ve had in London. Though I’d eat them at any time, it’s actually a tradition to eat dumplings at Chinese New Year as they symbolise different blessings such as wealth and prosperity.
Another important tradition in Chinese New Year is the wishing tree.
Inspired by the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees in Hong Kong, diners at the restaurant are given little red and gold slips of paper to write their wishes on and then these are hung around the restaurant.
I loved these special touches that really got us involved with the fun of Chinese New Year, plus I loved the look on Mr Silver’s face as he wrote his wish – I can always tell what he’s thinking…
2016 is also a fire year, from the Taoist theory of the five elements, and the year of the Fire Monkey is supposed to be an exciting year, where anything can happen and those that dare to be different will be successful. I’ve already got a good feeling about this year and I’m so excited to see what it has in store for me and my family and friends.
The first main course was Pipa duck, the poultry is prepared differently to the Peking Duck that we had recently at HKK. The duck is deboned and butterflied before roasting so that the skin is as crispy as possible. It must work because the skin so beautifully crisp and the meat was incredibly juicy – it was Mr S’s favourite of the night.
My favourite was the beautifully succulent and perfectly cooked hunks of wok-fired lobster in a delicious spicy truffle sauce with onion crispies and asparagus. A totally decadent and luxurious dish which was truly heaven on a plate for me.
A wonderful, sweet Chilean seabass in honey which flaked apart beautifully was rich with flavour and a slight chargrilled taste. I also enjoyed the deep-fried mushrooms that gave a delicious contrasting crunch to the soft flesh of the fish.
Accompanying the protein dishes was stir fry Hericium mushrooms with lotus root, asparagus and lily bulb in black pepper sauce and a generous serving of comforting scallop and crab meat fried rice.
Executive Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee has created a special dessert to go with the signature menu; named the Golden Halo, the dessert contains soy caramel, banana delice, chocolate, peanut and five-spiced cream.
It was something rather beautiful to behold – and desserts at Hakkasan often are – a crunchy sweet ring for the base with an orb of chocolate on top. Once the orb was cracked open molten chocolate sauce flowed out. There were chocolate buttons, little bits of banana, banana ice cream and caramelised peanuts – the latter two I believe were intended to represent the monkey’s favourite food. Usually I don’t like peanuts but the dessert was so beautifully balanced with a banana and chocolate, not too sweet and slightly salty. To Mr S’s surprise, I gobbled it up. I think he was hoping that he’d get to eat two…
Finally, it is also tradition to give little red envelopes containing money to family and friends and at the end of the night we were each presented with a gift, a specially designed Year of the Monkey coin to bring us luck and good fortune.
As always food, hospitality and atmosphere were top-notch at Hakkasan Hanway and I’d highly recommend popping in to try the Chinese New Year Menu. The celebrations run until the 22nd of February and the menu is priced £88.88 per person.
Hakkasan Hanway Place
8 Hanway Place
020 7927 7000
Our dinner was complimentary.