Jade Dynasty: Where to Celebrate Chinese New Year
From left to right, top to bottom: Lobster stir fry, shrimp and scallops sauteed with cucumbers and glazed walnuts, whole steamed uhu, jai, sticky rice steamed in lotus leaves, black sesame tang yuan in ginger syrup
Jade Dynasty opened about three years ago—John Heckathorn had visited it during the grand opening, but in the crush of people, couldn't get any food. He didn't end up reviewing it, but readers did: Jade Dynasty was voted into 2014's Hale Aina Best Chinese Restaurant category.
It's one of Honolulu's poshest Chinese restaurants, with a huge 8,000-square-foot dining room, modeled after Hong Kong seafood palaces. It's rich in red and dark, carved woods, lit with black and white and crystal chandeliers. I can think of few better places to celebrate Chinese New Year. (Though here's hoping they stock up the wine racks by the entrance with real wine, instead of empty bottles, which detract from the swankiness.)
Eight of us, of varying Chinese food snobbishness, ordered the restaurant's special Chinese New Year banquet menu, a 10-course, family-style meal for $438. It normally feeds 10, so we had tons of leftovers. Definitely gather at least 10 people for the dinner, otherwise, you might spend $80 a person, like we did, including drinks, tax and tip. While we all delighted in the dishes' clean and delicate flavors, $80 was a bit too much.
The menu is heavy on seafood, with lobsters stir-fried in a garlic sauce, sautéed shrimp and scallop with glazed walnuts, and even a shark fin soup—imitation, since Hawaii banned shark fin in 2011, the first state in the nation to do so. The fake shark fin resembles long rice, with very little flavor—I'd give up this course for more of the smoked chicken, incredibly tender and moist with a crisp, mahogany skin.
Of course, the menu also includes traditional New Year’s dishes—a steamed whole fish (uhu, when we went) and jai, with five different varieties of mushrooms and Chinese fungus providing crunchy, soft and slippery textures. Lots of sticky rice towards the end—one steamed with lup cheong in lotus leaves, and one in the form of black sesame tang yuan (glutinous rice balls) in a sweetened ginger broth. I could eat both for days.
Jade Dynasty's Chinese New Year menus are being offered now through the end of February, and there are just a few open dinner seatings for the actual new year, January 31. Two menus available, for $318 and $438, must be ordered a day in advance.
At Hookipa Terrace at Ala Moana Center, 947-8818, jadedynastyhawaii.com