Volume 17 • Issue 31 | Dec. 24 - 30, 2004

Cheaper eats on New Year’s Eve

A Chinatown merchant.
Downtown Express photo by Jennifer Weisbord

By Hemmy So

Planning festivities for New Year’s Eve in New York City can easily become a massive endeavor requiring extensive knowledge of the city’s bar and restaurant scene, plenty of advance notice and a pocket full of cash. NYC & Company suggests a simpler solution: Chinatown dining.

Through its visitor marketing campaign, Explore Chinatown, NYC & Company highlights the benefits of a New Year’s Eve spent Downtown — a plethora of restaurants serving Asian cuisine at inexpensive prices without the hassle of advance reservations.

“Food of course is a main object of going to Chinatown,” said Bonnie Wong, head of Asian Women in Business, an Explore Chinatown partner. “A lot of people go to Chinatown for food even though there’s a lot of things going on in Chinatown, and New Year’s Eve is not really a Chinatown destination. People think of going to Times Square, a fancy Midtown restaurant, a party at their friend’s house. One of the many things we’re doing is promoting Chinatown [for people] to go there year round.”

Explore Chinatown is funded by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the September 11th Fund. “We’re nine months into the campaign,” said Wong. “It’s in response to the businesses in Chinatown who had a drop in business because of a drop in tourism. The whole project is to promote Chinatown to bring more business back down there.”

Telly Wong, Explore Chinatown’s project manager, believes that the neighborhood has much potential as a New Year’s Eve destination. The area already experiences increased foot traffic on major holidays like Christmas because it is one of the few areas open for business, he said. “I think New Year’s Eve is something that hasn’t really been explored,” he added.

As part of its efforts to boost business in the ethnic neighborhood, NYC & Company has also teamed up with the M.T.A. to celebrate the subway’s 100th anniversary. MetroCard holders can show their cards to receive a prix fixe lunch or dinner menu for $8.88 and $18.88, respectively. (The number eight is a lucky number in China, signifying future fortune.) The deal lasts through the end of the year, meaning a three- to five-course New Year’s Eve dinner need not cost more than $20.

Typical menus offer a variety of standard fare like hot and sour soup, dumplings and General Tso’s chicken. But participating Chinatown restaurants also entice customers with delectable options with an authentic zing such as jumbo shrimp in white mayonnaise sauce at Jing Fong Restaurant at 20 Elizabeth St. or shredded pork with bean curd skin and preserved cabbage at Shanghai Cafe at 100 Mott St.

Customers can also order from the regular menu. Though Chinatown restaurants usually save their special dishes for Lunar New Year, some establishments have decided to offer new entrees for the Western holiday.

“We have some special dishes for Chinese New Year but we have special dishes for American New Year too,” said Spencer Chan from Sweet ‘N’ Tart Restaurant on 20 Mott St. “We have fried crispy chicken with golden garlic and ginger scallion, special lobster [which is] steamed lobster with egg white and dried scallops, sautéed shrimp with creamy vegetable sauce and dried scallops.”

Chan also mentioned special menus available for $25 per person. The restaurant also allows patrons to bring their own beer, wine or champagne without a corking fee.
Francis Kong, who runs marketing and events for Thai Angel on 141 Grand St., said that her restaurant won’t be serving any special meals, but that shouldn’t hinder customers from enjoying their New Year’s Eve dinner there. She said her restaurant serves real Thai food, meaning dishes with a spicy kick.

While Chan and Kong both noted that their usual New Year’s Eve crowds tend to be smaller groups of friends or couples, other Chinatown restaurants are geared toward large groups. Jing Fong and Golden Unicorn (18 E. Broadway), for example, have banquet-style rooms with large tables that seat eight to ten people.

Many restaurants are currently accepting reservations, although last-minute planners may have some luck as walk-ins. “So far we have some reservations for New Year’s, but it’s not difficult to have dinner on New Year’s Eve,” Chan said, noting Sweet ‘N’ Tart’s three-room banquet space.

Those dining in Chinatown for New Year’s Eve can check out a few parties and events in the area as well. New Silver Palace Restaurant at 52 Bowery and Hop Lee at 16 Mott St. are both hosting celebrations complete with dancing and DJs. Teabag Open Mic organizers plan to have an all-night event at its venue at 30 Mott St. with singers, comedians and exhibitionists.

For more information on the Chinatown $18.88 dinner prix fixe meal, visit www.ExploreChinatown.com or call 212-414-5857.

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