Lunar New Year

‘Bling Empire’ Stars Share Their Picks on Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year in LA

Ring in the Lunar New Year with some bling.

'Bling Empire' | Photo courtesy of Netflix
'Bling Empire' | Photo courtesy of Netflix

No one celebrates Lunar New Year like the cast of Netflix’s Bling Empire—as was made clear in the show’s premiere episode, which offered a peek inside an elaborate celebration that shut down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Each of the cast members was decked out in couture while red envelopes filled with cash were passed out, and Chinese dragons with blinking neon eyes danced in front of giant, flashing LED screens. Yet despite these decadent distractions, the cast spent most of the party around the dinner table. That’s because Lunar New Year is all about the food. For those who celebrate, the act of eating dishes like dumplings, noodles, and rice cakes with family and friends, is thought to encourage future luck, prosperity, happiness, and good health. The holiday falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, this year arriving on February 12, and according to Chinese zodiac, 2021 is the Year of the Ox—a symbol of hard work, strength, and reliability.

Kelly and Cherie
Kelly and Cherie | Photo courtesy of Tommy Su @Bobalife

Bling Empire premiered this past January and quickly jumped onto Netflix’s top 10 list. The reality show is like the real-life version of the book/film, Crazy Rich Asians, and shadows a group of wealthy Asian friends who live, work, and play in Los Angeles. Among them are Kelly Mi Li, who also executive produces the show—you likely remember her (warning, spoilers ahead) politely declining co-star Kevin Kreider’s flirtations as she attempted to move on from a tumultuous relationship with former red Power Ranger Andrew Gray (who she’s since made amends with). Kreider, a Philly transplant who was adopted by white parents, spent most of the show in disbelief of the extravagant wealth afforded to his friends, while building up his personal modeling portfolio. And there’s no forgetting the demure-in-tone but fantastically dressed Cherie Chan, an LA native who wins the award for daintiest childbirth ever captured on film.

With Lunar New Year coming up this weekend, we caught up with all three cast members to hear how they’re celebrating in a pandemic, and to get their recommendations on what to eat and where to celebrate in LA:

Capital Seafood

Beverly Hills
Recommended by: Kelly Mi Li
Dish recommendations: The deluxe dim sum platter and sesame rice ball in sweet rice pudding.
Li’s favorite dim sum and seafood restaurant is Capital Seafood, where she celebrated Lunar New Year last year with her friends. The restaurant features an extensive menu and their most popular dishes include the house special sauce lobster and the Peking duck with eight fluffy buns. You can also order a wide selection of traditional dim sum classics such as pineapple buns, steamed bbq pork buns, or shrimp har gow. For Lunar New Year, the restaurant is serving up poon choi, a celebratory Cantonese dish that’s served in a large basin and eaten family-style. It includes generous amounts of abalone, sea cucumber, pork, shrimp, and must be ordered at least two days in advance for take-out. The $288 dish is served hotpot style and feeds six to eight people.
How to order: Call for curbside pick up. Pick-up or delivery via Chownow, Grubhub, Postmates, DoorDash, UberEats, Seamless, or Caviar.

Crustacean

Beverly Hills
Recommended by: Kelly Mi Li
Dish recommendations: The toasted shrimp toast and An’s favorite garlic noodles.
Crustacean is a glitzy Beverly Hills mainstay and one of Li's top Lunar New Year picks. Executive chef Helene An has been credited with first introducing Vietnamese cuisine to the United States. The restaurant is famous for its garlic-roasted Dungeness crab noodles, which Li describes as “out of this world.” Noodles are a well-known Lunar New Year dish as their length symbolizes longevity. Also, make sure to try the crab fried rice and the filet mignon shaken beef. For Lunar New Year, Crustacean is offering a set menu for two for $280, which includes spicy oxtail dumplings, uni noodles, whole roasted Dover sole, and more. 
How to order: Text or call in your curbside takeout or delivery order. The Lunar New Year menu is available on Tock. It’s currently sold out but you can join the waitlist.

Mama Lu's Dumpling House

Monterey Park
Recommended by: Kelly Mi Li
Dish recommendations: Shrimp, chive, and pork dumplings, and juicy pork dumplings.
One of Kelly's favorite things about this San Gabriel Valley restaurant is that you can order a big bag of frozen dumplings to enjoy whenever you like. “Dumplings are probably the best known Lunar New Year dish, symbolizing wealth,” explains Li,  “The shape is similar to ancient Chinese silver or gold ingots.” This Taiwanese eatery specializes in beef wraps, green onion pancakes, juicy pork dumplings, and regular dumplings of course. An added bonus: the prices are incredibly reasonable—all the more reason to stock your fridge full of these frozen delights. 
How to order: Pick-up or delivery via Grubhub.

Phoenix Inn Chinese Cuisine

Chinatown
Recommended by: Cherie Chan
Dish recommendations: Poon choi, which comes in small and large sizes. The small feeds five people ($158) and the large feeds ten people ($258). 
The original outpost of Phoenix Inn Chinese Cuisine has been open in Chinatown since 1965, and since then they’ve opened 12 more locations throughout Southern California. The menu features a mix of homestyle Cantonese dishes and modern Chinese-American cuisine. If Chan wasn’t already making poon choi at home this year, she would order this traditional Lunar New Year dish from Phoenix Inn Chinese Cuisine. The restaurant chain is also known for their extensive dessert and drink menu. Some dessert standouts include the mixed fruits tapioca drink, durian black sticky rice, and mango rolls. 
How to order: Pick-up or delivery via Grubhub

C.O.D Seafood House and Raw Bar

Beverly Grove
Recommended by: Cherie Chan
Dish recommendations: Pork xiao long bao and the truffle uni pasta.
COD Restaurant is Cherie’s go-to for pan-Asian dishes. The restaurant also has a takeout raw bar that offers hamachi ceviche, Hokkaido scallop carpaccio, tuna poke, and more. For Lunar New Year, the restaurant has a four-course set menu available for $85 per person. Some of the options on the menu include grilled Chilean sea bass with ginger miso sauce, sea scallops with butter soy sauce, truffle uni pasta, and pan-fried shrimp and chive dumplings. 
How to order: Pick-up or delivery via Postmates

OPAL Chinese Cuisine

San Gabriel 
Recommended by: Cherie Chan
Dish recommendations: Signature Sichuan Peking duck
Located inside the Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel Hotel, OPAL Chinese Cuisine serves traditional Cantonese dishes. Chan’s family is originally from Hong Kong and she loves OPAL Chinese Cuisine’s authentic dishes because it reminds her of home. The restaurant’s signature Sichuan Peking duck is her favorite dish, which OPAL roasts and dries in their specialty duck oven. The menu is extensive, featuring popular standbys such as the fiery salt and pepper squid and mapo tofu, alongside more elaborate dishes such as the rare bird’s nest soup with crabmeat and braised whole abalone. The popular honey walnut shrimp features especially large pieces of shrimp paired with chunks of walnut. Also, the dry stir-fried Chinese green peas are a great pairing to any meal. 
How to order: Call to order takeout

Âu Lạc
Photo courtesy of Âu Lạc

Âu Lạc

DTLA
Recommended by: Kevin Kreider
Dish recommendations: The “octopus,” with battered shiitake mushrooms over black rice
This plant-based and vegan eatery specializes in traditional Vietnamese cuisine but also includes fusion-style dishes such as an ito burrito wrapped in a dehydrated green pea tortilla and pasta dishes such as ravioli rosa. For more traditional Vietnamese options, opt for the claypot fish featuring soy fish and fried tofu or the pho with soy chicken. The meat alternatives at the restaurant include konjac, soy, wheat, potatoes, and peas. It's one of Kreider’s top picks because he leans towards a plant-based lifestyle, and is a great option for those looking to celebrate Lunar New Year meat-free. 
How to order: Pick-up or delivery via Grubhub, Postmates, Doordash

RiceBox

DTLA
Recommended by: Kelly Mi Li
Dish recommendations: OG Char Siu Bao, the porchetta crackling, and grandma’s curry beef stew.
Leo and Lydia Lee of RiceBox have updated Lydia’s grandfather's classic Cantonese BBQ recipes to create what they call ‘modern Cantonese BBQ,’ which Li enjoys for their wide range of dim sum and vegan options. RiceBox differentiates itself from typical Cantonese joints with their commitment to sourcing only high-quality organic ingredients. Their popular char siu (bbq pork) is made from a richly flavored heritage breed of pork called Duroc and you can order it at the restaurant in a customized RiceBox. For Lunar New Year, RiceBox was offering their Instagrammable baked chicken stuffed with sticky rice, but it sold out instantly.
How to order: Pick-up or delivery via Grubhub, Postmates, DoorDash, or Caviar

Qin West Noodle

Multiple locations
Recommended by: Kelly Mi Li
Dish recommendations: Steamed dumplings and Guilin soup.
This year, Li is hoping that her grandma ships over her famous dumpling fillings for Lunar New Year so that the family can make dumplings together over Zoom, but for a quick dumpling fix she always pops over to Qin West Noodle. Here, the dumplings are available steamed or pan fried, but the restaurant’s real specialty are Shaanxi/Guilin-style handmade noodles. The Liang Pi noodles are especially refreshing: served cold, they are paired with bean sprouts, slivers of cucumber, peanuts for crunch, and a generous dollop of the fragrant house chili oil. Looking for a cold weather option? Try the Guilin soup served with beef, slow-cooked shank, lily flowers, pickled Chinese cabbage, sour beans, and topped up with a stewed egg. 
How to order: Pick-up or delivery via Caviar, DoorDash, Postmates

Spicy City

San Gabriel
Recommended by: Kelly Mi Li
Dish recommendations: Toothpick lamb, Chongqing boiled fish or beef, and single cooked noodle.
Spicy City features a wide range of spicy foods from Sichuan and Chongqing, as well as Li’s hometown of Kunming. Li’s favorite dish is the single-cooked noodle, a Kunming specialty, but regularly switches it up with the restaurant’s extensive menu of over 100 items. On the appetizer menu alone there are 24 cold options to choose from, including pig ear salad, sliced pig cheeks, shredded bean curd, and marinated seaweed salad. The best bet is to choose three of your favorites for the appetizer combo. For a punch of heat, order the deep fried chicken cube with hot pepper and make sure to balance it out with a bowl of sticky white rice. To ring in Lunar New Year, order the steamed whole fish, a classic Chinese dish which symbolizes abundance.  
How to order: Pick-up or delivery via Postmates.

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Kaila Yu is a journalist and on-camera correspondent based in Los Angeles. She is also the co-author of the 30-Day Travel Challenge. Follow her on Twitter.
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