Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gong hey fat choy the right way this year

By Meredith Deliso

Celebrate New Year’s all over again.

We’re talking about the Chinese calendar, of course, which kicks off the Year of the Rabbit on Feb. 3. And what better place to take in the frenetic sights, sounds and, of course, tastes than Brooklyn’s own Chinatown?

Just hop on the N train to Eighth Avenue and you’ll step into a vibrant and tightly knit community full of Chinese groceries, restaurants, tea shops and general stores. But among the wealth of choices, you can’t go wrong with Pacificana.

The lavish 55th Street spot has long been a favorite of ours for its dim sum, and it has just the right attitude for this emblematic holiday.

“Chinese New Year is just like the American New Year. We get together and try to get rid of all our negative [energy] and bring in the positive,” said manager Jimmy Ching.

Of course, that all depends on what you order — Chinese food is loaded with symbolism, so to make sure you get the desired results, you’ll need to know what to get.

Clams in black bean sauce ($12.95) are said to bring mirth, because when you open the clam, it looks like it’s laughing. Braised sea cucumber is an edible genie — it’s believed to make your wishes come true. On New Year’s, the restaurant will be serving it with Shanghai bok choi ($25.95).

Luck is a large part of the celebration, so try the dry oysters with sea moss ($18.95), advised Ching.

“Another thing you will see is people with tangerines to give as offerings for good luck,” he added.

It wouldn’t be a Chinese New Year without fish — it’s a symbol of prosperity — and Pacificana will be serving a variety of whole flounder, bass, catfish.

“It’s important to keep the fish whole,” said Cathy Erway, a food writer who’s leading a Chinese New Year’s cooking class at the Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg on Jan. 31. “It’s bad luck in general to cut things on Chinese New Year.”

For dessert, don’t stray from the sticky rice cake, whose sweetness symbolizes a rich, sweet life to come.

Speaking of symbolism, lion dances are also a large part of the holiday festivities, and yeah, Pacificana’s got those, too.

“At noon we have lion dancers come in, because lions get rid of everything evil,” said Ching. “We get scaffolding in the restaurant and they basically walk on the ceiling.”

Enough said.

Pacificana [813 55th St. at Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park, (718) 871-2880]. Open from 8 am-11 pm on Feb. 3.

— with Michelle Manetti

Photo: Chinese food is all about symbolism, and to guarentee joy this Chinese New Year, make sure to order the clams in black bean sauce at Pacificana. Photo by Stefano Giovannini


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