Year of the Ox

If New Year's Eve 1996 didn't prove festive enough, or if the evening was particularly enjoyable and waiting until December 31 for the next party seems like light years away, don't despair. There's reason to sing the Auld Lang Syne again. Come midnight Februrary 6, the year of the Ox is upon us, and a number of Austin's Chinese restaurants have cooked up special celebrations to usher in the beast.

Bamboo Garden
625 W. Ben White, 444-6022

This South Austin favorite, in business since 1976, will feature a special menu on Thu-Fri,
Feb. 6-7. Among the offerings will be Good Luck Soup, a rare treat exclusive to Bamboo Garden ordered from Taiwan especially for the occasion. Complimentary champagne, photographs, and traditional Chinese New Year's music should set a festive tone. Each diner will also receive a blessed coin and a sweet bean popover, the latter a Chinese take on Texas' traditional New Year's dish of black-eyed peas.

Cafe Chino
12636 Research, 335-8888

In addition to its regular menu, Cafe Chino plans a New Year's Eve meal Thursday, February 6, featuring 2 Flavor Shrimp, a decorative shrimp dish blanketed with both a white and spicy red sauce. A number of whole fish specials are also planned, among them the popular Hunan crispy style fish and a traditional Taiwanese fish preparation.

China on the Avenue
908 Congress, 474-0137

This popular downtown location plans to unveil a new menu in celebration of the year of the Ox. Diners should look for the change beginning Friday, February 7.

215 E. Sixth Street, 320-8018

Austin's newest Chinese restaurant, the latest venture of Ronald Cheng, creator of the Chinatown restaurants on Bee Caves on MoPac, is celebrating Saturday, February 8, by handing out plenty of "lucky money" and treating diners to traditional New Year's fare such as crispy whole fish with jalapeño black bean sauce and stewed duck with Chinese black peppercorn sauce. Both Chinatown locations will serve the New Year's specials as well, though Cheng notes that what sets the new Chinois restaurant apart from Austin's other Chinese establishments is its in-house grill. Diners should expect a menu comprising contemporary, grilled, and pan-fried Chinese dishes that are lower in fat than the standard Chinese preparations. Look forward to garlic and rosemary lemon chicken, Sacha beef kabobs, and Thai fish with basil.

2414 Exposition, 322-0344

To greet the year of the Ox, Formosa has created a list of New Year's specials that appropriately, emphasizes beef, although several fish dishes will be featured as well. Formosa will celebrate Thu-Sat, Feb 6-8. Unique decoration is planned for the five-year-old restaurant, and every customer will receive a lucky red envelope. Specials include: grilled ribeye steak with ginger soy sauce, beef stew Formosa with vegetables, roasted brisket with Formosa barbecue sauce, beef a l'orange with ginger, garlic, and orange sauce, red snapper with crawfish basil cream sauce, red snapper encrusted with almond and topped with ginger avocado plum sauces, and baby bok choy and prawns with a white wine garlic sauce.

Shanghai River Restaurant
2700 W. Anderson, 458-9598

Several authentic Chinese New Year preparations will be served at this north Austin spot on Thu-Fri, Feb. 6-7. Shanghai River's star entree will be roasted pork, a whole pig marinated in special spices and roasted until its skin takes on a tantalizing reddish-orange color. Also on the menu will be the traditional Happy Family's sticky rice, a copious steamed rice dish studded with dried shrimp, Chinese mushrooms, sausage and ham. For dessert -- sweet dumplings filled with mung bean, coconut, and ginger.

3706 Jefferson, 454-3228

Providing a unique twist on Chinese food with the incorporation of the newly-popular wrap into its offerings, Snowpeas menu for the New Year celebration features a more traditional mandarin stir fried rice noodle with black mushrooms and chicken, pork, or beef (or a combination of all three). A variety of wraps are available too -- potato curry (plain or with chicken), mandarin tofu and schezuan tofu, among others. Snowpeas will also give away $500 in lucky money in demonitions ranging from .25 to $20.

Texas Asian Chamber of Commerce's Gala New Year Celebration

The first annual black tie affair will be held at the Doubletree Hotel on Sat., Feb. 8 and include a pre-dinner casino and reception followed by a banquet featuring the cuisines of several Asian countries. Entertainment includes Chinese and Lyric Opera samplers, a Vietnamese choir, and traditional Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese dances. A raffle and auction will punctuate the evening, with airline tickets, jewelry, art, and business equipment among the prizes. Tickets are $35. Call 462-3883 for more information.

-- Rebecca Chastenet de Géry

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