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Jan 28, 2013 09:01 PM

Lunar New Year in Honolulu

We'll be in Oahu for the start of Chinese New Year, and are hoping to find somewhere to celebrate in proper style. Since my e-mails to the tourism board and Chinatown business association have gone unanswered, wondering if anyone here might have a lead on dinner or other party open to a pair of Seattle tourists. I know we're missing the big parade (we'll be on the island from Feb. 7-Feb. 12), but figure there must be an edible commemoration. Any ideas?

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  1. You will miss the big parade and street fair weekend of Feb 2nd, but there will still be some lesser activity 8th and 9th around the Chinese Cultural Plaza. What exactly is hard to say...don't know why all the major celebrations are always before and not on the weekend of the lunar new year.

    On the other hand, getting into most Chinatown restaurants should be slightly easier then after the big public celebrations start to ease off, and the atmosphere should be quite festive, although mainly family gatherings.

    10 Replies
    1. re: macaraca

      Thanks so much, macaraca. Do you have any Chinatown restaurant recommendations?

      1. re: shm9496

        mei sum, legend seafood (good dim sum with loud chinese atmosphere), mandalay. i like nice day on liliha, but others don't.

        1. re: shm9496

          There are a lot of Chinese restaurants, both in Chinatown and in the neighborhoods, each with its own following. To the recommendations stated by indelibledotink, I would add Little Village and Golden Palace, both in Chinatown. If you're not committed to Chinese cuisine, Indigo is a lovely restaurant in Chinatown. You can check it out at

          1. re: shm9496

            Indelible and honu have good suggestions.

            I would add Lucky Belly on Hotel Street, its new and probably a bit too popular, but good.

            1. re: shm9496

              Would second Little Village, Legend, Mei Sum. We had dinner last night at Little Village with some of our usual favorites: Chicken-Chive Potstickers and Honey-Walnut Shrimp. The Dried Beef with Chow Fun was excellent, as was the Taro Duck.

              One in our group had an internet coupon for a savings on one of a list of weekly specials...might be worth searching online.

              Was sorry to hear that Jennifer, the owner's wife had recently passed away. She was quite the character, something of a dragon lady, but insistent on quality and service.

              We have never been disappointed there. Legends can be a bit intimidating if you are not accustomed to Hong Kong style dim sum have to be on your toes to order quickly from the passing carts, and put up with the cacophony, but with those caveats, it is very enjoyable with excellent dim sum. Mei Sum is smaller and a bit more casual.

              1. re: macaraca

                Great! Thanks so much for all the wonderful suggestions. With all the talk of dim sum and dragons, it sounds like we might be better off visiting the neighborhood on Sunday morning (New Year's Day) than aiming for a festive meal the previous night. I'm confident we won't have any trouble filling a vacant dinner slot. Thanks again.

                1. re: shm9496

                  For any of the better Chinatown restaurants you'll want reservations for weekends, especially around lunar new year. The wait for a table at Legend's at lunchtime on regular Sat/Sun is liable to be lengthy, so the coming weekends might be difficutl. Don't think I've ever been there for dinner.

                  Legend's has validated parking in the Chinese Cultural Plaza lot, but it is sure to be jammed. LV has its own small lot just past the building on Smith. Mei Sum has a small lot off Pauahi, while there is a larger underground public lot that would serve all three, enter from Beretania on the makai side of the street just after Nuuanu. All of them are easy to get to on the main bus lines from Waikiki to downtown.

                  1. re: macaraca

                    makai=ocean side

                    and mauka=mountain side

                2. re: macaraca

                  So sorry to hear that Jennifer has passed away. I spent some time with them once looking at a possible new space, but they ended up not moving forward with a new project. She was a formidable woman.


              on chinese new year day (10th) there is lion dancing at royal hawaiian center in waiks. i would imagine there would be a lot of the same in chinatown - every year i see the lions all over the place, going from business to business.

              if you like r&b:

              also some mardi gras events.

              have fun and eat well!

              1. Seafood Village, which is the Chinese restaurant in the basement of the Hyatt Regency, is advertising a special Chinese New Year's menu for Feb. 9 and 10 and a lion's dance.

                On Feb. 9, the Hyatt is also supposed to be hosting a free ukulele contest and hula show from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. as part of the Ukulele Picnic. The website is


                Who knows? You can get a fix of Chinese food and Hawaiian music.

                2 Replies
                1. re: honu2

                  I wondered about the ukulele picnic! I feel like I can't go to Hawaii and not hear a well-played uke. Thanks so much.

                  1. re: honu2

                    IMO, Seafood Village is a little bit better and a bit more expensive than any other Chinese food on Oahu with the exception of a banquet I once had at Pah Kee in Kaneohe.

                  2. check the TGIF section from the star advertiser's friday edition and the honolulu weekly for chinese new year events. there are some lion dances and other celebrations going on.

                    sunday is a free ukulele event, not sure if it's the one at the hyatt. it was in TGIF. actually there are several uke events going on, some free, some you have to buy tix.

                    block party on nuuanu ave for mardi gras. thousands will attend.

                    1. Although the "official" celebration has passed, you can stil enjoy the "everything Chinese" commodities and festivities in Chinatown during the month of February. If you are lucky, there will still be some lion dances around the Cultural Plaza. Plan to arrive in Chinatown mid morning... most restaurants also serve Jai - the typical Chinese monk food denoting the new year.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: roro808

                        don't forget about gau.

                        bring some li si for the lions.

                          1. re: indelibledotink

                            One of the things I really love about Hawaii is seeing the excitement that a dancing lion can generate among spectators. The drums provide anticipation and then crowds of all ages and all ethnicities rush up to feed dollar bills to the lion. The small kids are kind of scared and attracted at the same time, and the adults are wanting to give a dollar or two for propsperity in the new year. It's the only time I wish we didn't have a ban on firecrackers.

                            1. re: honu2

                              Like this? The other children love it because they've already been indoctrinated, and know the drill. The little ones don't know what the hell to think.

                                1. re: ladybugthepug

                                  Love it! What is it about holidays that makes child abuse OK?

                                  Go get candy from those strange people in scary costumes . . .
                                  Go sit on the strange fat man's lap, tell him what you want . . .
                                  Stick your hand in it's mouth kiddo, it won't hurt you . . .

                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    Hey, if we're gonna foot the bill we might as well have a little fun at their expense, right?