Where to Celebrate Chinese New Year
XBB: Xiao Bao Biscuit, has been one of the most talked about and praised restaurants since it opened in Charleston, but if I’m honest, I was a little skeptical before trying it for the first time. My skepticism stemmed from the fact that they offer a menu of items from various areas in Asia including Japanese, Thai and Chinese menu items, which is difficult to do. However, I can admit, that I was wrong...very, very wrong. Despite offering an ethnically diverse menu, the menu is quite small and rotates fairly regularly, with their most popular items the Okonomiyaki (cabbage pancake) and Mapo Doufu (Spicy Sichuan Tofu) being mainstays. XBB also does specialty menu items quite often, especially for Chinese New Years. This year, they will be featuring a guest chef and friend who is opening the Typhoon Shelter Club in Los Angeles. While the menu items have not been released, I have honestly never had an item from XBB I wasn't impressed by. Last year their Chinese New Year menu included Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) which if you know Chinese food are literally little pockets of heaven, and incredibly hard to do well. My only teeny tiny gripe with XBB is that they took their La Zhi Ji (a Sichuan-flavored spicy Chicken dish) off of their menu and I love, love, loved that dish. (XBB if you’re somehow reading this, help a girl out!) XBB does not take reservations and is located at 224 Rutledge Ave. To learn more, visit: http://xiaobaobiscuit.com/
Tu: I can’t write too much about Tu, because I have yet to visit, but am visiting for the first time on Chinese New Year. Being run by the owners of XBB, I have no doubt that it will be amazing. Their normal menu is not Asian, but they will be featuring a special menu for Chinese New Year, Friday and Saturday night. They will also be teaming up with Shortgrain (another powerhouse in Asian cuisine in Charleston) for a late night dumpling menu, which I am really hoping to be able to experience (even though it’s probably way past my bedtime). Tu does take limited reservations via Resy and is located at 430 Meeting St. To learn more, visit: https://www.tu-charleston.com
Golden Garden: When it comes to Golden Garden looks can be deceiving. From the outside it just looks like your standard Chinese takeout restaurant with a neon sign, set in a grocery store parking lot (The Bilo on Shelmore). However, from the second I stepped inside, I knew Golden Garden would be different. On a bulletin board to the right of the entrance are pictures of authentic Chinese menu items that are not usually found in most Chinese restaurants unless they’re located in a Chinatown, or you know...China. They also have a written Chinese menu, which I unfortunately cannot read, and therefore have not even tried half of their menu items. Some favorites for me have been 1) Shui Zhu Yu (I believe the English name for the dish would be Spicy Fish Pot, can also be done with Beef) essentially this very flavorful and spicy broth with fish fillets (or beef slices) cooked with Napa Cabbage and celery 2) Hong Shao Rou (Red Braised Pork Belly) this is an incredibly rich dish done with pork belly and potatoes that is a very traditional dish to eat at Chinese New Year. The only downside of the restaurant is that it looks and feels like a Chinese take out place so I usually only do carryout. They can also be a little impatient on the phone when they’re busy (which is all the time) so if you’re looking to order off their more authentic menu, it's a little difficult unless you are familiar with it. They do also do a very good job with their standard take out fare, if you’re not looking to stray from more standard items like Orange Chicken and Lo Mein. Golden Garden does not take reservations and has limited seating, it is located at 778 S Shelmore Blvd.
Kwei Fei: Kwei Fei is a Sichuan style pop-up concept that is set in The Daily on Friday and Saturday evenings from 6-12. Sichuan cuisine has really become popular in recent years, and Sichuan peppercorn, which has a numbing effect, is used quite often now in both asian and non-asian cuisine. David Schuttenberg formerly the head chef of Fish (which will reopen as Parcel 32 this spring) heads up the concept. The menu features about ten-ish menu items, with some new items being introduced each week. Popular dishes on the menu are their Mapo Tofu and Lamb Dumplings. Personally, twice cooked pork is one of my favorite Sichuan dishes and their rendition does not disappoint. I was super impressed that they have Suan Ni Bai Rou on their menu, because it is a childhood favorite and not a dish that is very commonly found even at authentic Sichuan establishments. They also have this incredible housemade ‘Angry Lady’ sauce that makes me a very happy lady. Sichuan food is really hard to get right because those that are not familiar think it’s all about intense spice and peppercorns, but done right there is an incredible balance of flavors and that is what Kwei Fei excels at. Post and Courier recently shared that in addition to their savory menu, Kwei Fei will welcome Katy Keefe of McCrady's and Cynthia Wong of Butcher and Bee to add their spin on Chinese desserts Nian Gao (Rice Cakes) and Egg Custard to the menu. Kwei Fei is located at The Daily at 652 King St. To learn more, visit: https://www.kweifei.com
Riso Noodle House: If you have never had Chinese hot pot, you have not lived. Seriously, it is a staple in Chinese cuisine and a popular way to celebrate Chinese New Year. The two years I lived in China, I don’t think I went a single week without eating hot pot at least once a week. The concept is similar to fondue, there is a boiling pot of broth in the center of the table and then you cook proteins, vegetables, noodles, dumplings or whatever your heart desires on your own. When I heard that there was actually a restaurant in Charleston that does Chinese hot pot, I may or may not have had a mild heart attack. The restaurant actually does an extremely good job in the variety of items they provide for the hot pot and has both spicy and non spicy broths, as well as pots that offer both options. They do require a minimum of two diners to enjoy the experience (although when it comes to hotpot the more the merrier). Riso Noodle House also does have a good menu of other authentic Chinese dishes such as their whole steamed grouper as well as some more adventurous dishes such as their pork feet soup. They do have some non-Chinese items on menu as well such as Lumpia and Pad Thai, which at first glance made me a little doubtful of their authenticity, but they are definitely the real deal. Riso Noodle House is located at 1890 Sam Rittenberg Blvd.