Confucius say, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are anything but "boars." That's because they're rabbits! So are Johnny Depp and Drew Barrymore. The fourth Chinese zodiac sign that rolls around every 12 years is full of fortunate souls who always land on their feet.
The lunar New Year, with moon cycles ruling over solar cycles, officially hops into Maui on Feb. 3. But celebrations of food, fireworks, kung-fu demos and lion dancing may start as early as Tuesday and run for as long as two weeks. Each restaurant or hotel is different.
These auspicious events have kept growing like bamboo in the rain forest, ever since the first Chinese arrived here in the 1850s. Now they are a solid part of Maui's heritage. So enjoy the noisy shows at participating Maui establishments, or savor cartons or half or whole pans of authentic takeout fare at home with family and friends.
Year of the Rabbit
Chefs here follow traditions so every dish symbolizes a trait. For instance, snow peas mean unity; peanuts symbolize birth; and black mushrooms bring forth opportunities. The longer the noodle you eat, the longer you will live. So slurp away! Below, are tips on where to dine on the island from West Maui to Central.
Ka'anapali Beach Hotel
A 20-year tradition, the Chinese New Year brunch at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel will explode onto the scene from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6.
This year's brunch will feature live Hawaiian music, free-flowing champagne and fireworks and lion dancing by Au's Shaolin Arts Society at 9 and 11 a.m. More than 50 items will be presented on the buffet, including Asian delicacies such as crisp won tons, egg rolls, steamed mini manapua, roast duck, cashew chicken, cake noodles, shrimp in black bean sauce, and kau yuk (roasted pork).
"My chefs will do stir fries at a Chinese wok station and they will hand-carve slow-roasted, kiawe-smoked prime rib at another station," says Executive Chef Tom Muromoto, who was born during the Year of the Rooster. "We'll have an iced seafood bar, and specialty desserts are Chinese pretzels and almond cookies."
* KBH is at 2525 Kaanapali Parkway. Cost of brunch for adults is $36.95, and $22 for children 6 to 12 years old. Special event parking rates apply. For more details, call 667-0124.
As usual, Dragon Dragon Chinese Restaurant at the Maui Mall in Kahului will breathe fire into this holiday. It reigns as Best Chinese Restaurant in our newspaper's most recent Best of Maui contest and it's cool and air-conditioned with feng shui elements.
"We've been here for 10 years, do you believe it?" asks Raymond Shek, managing partner, an Ox. "We designed this room with lots of feng shui. We put a lot of corners into the ceiling because it directs the wind. It resists, then it grabs the fortune."
Those who come to Maui Mall's Year of the Rabbit event at center stage from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, may check out the show, feed the lions and then dash over to Dragon Dragon for a nice sit-down meal.
Or dine there any time before or after a show, as the Maui Mall Megaplex boasts 12 movie screens. The restaurant has 130 seats in the main dining room with a 40-person capacity in a side room.
"We want to remind everybody that we ship in live lobsters and dungeness crabs each week," says Shek. "You simply choose what you want from our tank."
You may also order take out for your parties at home. Egg rolls, gau gee, crispy chicken and roast duck all make great finger foods. Dim sum is served at lunch only. The small delicacies, also known as "dot heart," are China's version of tapas. They're great finger foods, too.
* Dragon Dragon is located at 70 E. Kaahumanu Ave. in Kahului. Weekday hours are 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. On weekends, hours are extended for both services a half hour longer.
Mike's Hong Kong Bistro
It's a powerhouse of a Chinese eatery, situated in a humble retail mall. Mike's Hong Kong Bistro also boasts cushy booths and air-conditioning setting for your family functions during the new year.
"We will feature Chinese New Year specials from February 1st to 15th," says owner Tina Xiao, who was the only restaurant owner interviewed to be born in the Year of the Rabbit. "All of these specials will be served in addition to our regular menu."
Specials include steamed fish such as fresh kumu, uhu, and moi. In ancient times, the latter was served only to Hawaiian alii, or royalty.
Originally from Guangzhou, China, Tina's husband, Mike Xiao, is a consummate chef who also will do specials such as seabass stir-fried with baby bok choy; mushroom chicken; and fresh snow peas with your choice of seafood, scallops only, beef or chicken.
"Of course, you must eat your noodles for longevity" he says. Mike's also houses a hot buffet at its walk-up counter for fast service, day or night.
Dim sum is made fresh daily, and you may order steamer baskets full of char-siu bao and siu mai along with congee and char-siu noodles. Mike was a caterer at the Shanghai Circus show and he can do quite large takeout and catering orders with 24-hours advance notice.
* Mike's is located at 1900 Main St., Wailuku. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Call 244-7888.
Those in South Maui may want to ring in the new year here Feb. 3 with an all-you-can-eat authentic buffet and lion dancing at 6 and 8 p.m.
Bring your appetites, as the buffet will let you pile on roast duck, jai, scallops with snow peas, steamed fish fillet, dou ban mussels, General Tso's chicken, green beans with lup cheong, braised spare ribs, peppered beef, crab Rangoon, char siu fried rice, vegetable lo mein, jin dui or sesame balls, shrimp cocktail, Oriental salad, garlic five treasure, seafood tofu soup, eggplant with vinegar - and for dessert, fruit and coconut tapioca.
"We will serve the buffet only that night," says partner DJ Chee, who was born in the Year of the Lamb. "But we also offer a special dine-in promotion for Chinese New Year for kamaaina from Feb. 1 to 10 between 3 to 6 p.m. Buy two entrees and get one free."
* East Ocean Chinese Restaurant is located upstairs next to Denny's at 2463 S. Kihei Road in Kihei. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. Cost of buffet is $19.95 per person. Call 879-1988.
China Bowl Asian Cuisine
Situated right next to the Honoapiilani Highway at one of the middle entrances to Kaanapali Resort, China Bowl Asian Cuisine in Fairway Shops is a convenient, 60-seat, air-conditioned restaurant.
Noisy fireworks and lion dancing are not in the plans. But it does offer a walk-up counter, teal and beige stone floors and track lights with red lanterns for a quiet feast. Owners Simon Tay (a Rooster from Taiwan) and his wife, Angela Tay (a Tiger from Shanghai) have 20 years in the restaurant business on Maui.
You may order both brown and white rice, there are menus for kids and catering, and delivery spans a wide area from The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua to Lahaina. "We also offer a full bar, and 10 percent off food to kamaaina," says Angela, who runs the front of the house.
Spicy dishes, such as Hunan beef, Kung pao chicken and Szechuan shrimp are all indicated with chile peppers on the menu. More mild crowd-pleasing favorites are asparagus with black mushrooms and bamboo shoots, pan-fried egg noodle, crab meat with cream-cheese won tons, half roast duck, moo-shu pork, and green-tea ice cream.
* China Bowl is located at 2580 Keka'a Drive, Kaanapali. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. Entrees range from $7.95 to $24.95. Call 661-0660.
Four Sisters Kitchen
The new Four Sisters Kitchen in Wailuku is already a draw for its reasonably priced lunch buffets that include soft drink and dessert.
"We always run a Chinese buffet on Wednesdays. But for our next one on February 2, which is the closest Wednesday to the Chinese New Year, we will serve fried noodles, kung pao chicken, shrimp in black-bean sauce, Mongolian beef, roast duck, orange chicken and sweet-and-sour pork," says partner Melen Agcolicol, born in the Year of the Snake. "Plus, daily add-ons of pork adobo, steamed vegetables, roast pork and pinakbet."
Since the family also owns Four Sisters Bakery down the street, you will find freshly made dessert items such as the Filipino cascaron on the buffet.
* Four Sisters Kitchen is located at 2102 Vineyard St. on the corner of Church Street. Lunch buffet hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $9.99, plus tax and tip. For more details, call 242-1135.
Wolfgang Puck's Spago is an oceanfront place to go for an upscale Chinese New Year because of its gourmet slant in one of Maui's top hotels.
The Four Seasons Resort Maui will get you in the mood with lion dancers at 6 p.m. Wednesday and you may feed them li see for good luck.
Afterwards, head to Spago lobby level and drink in the ocean views along with a number of tempting items by Chef de Cuisine Cameron Lewark.
These include steamed opakapaka Hong-Kong style with baby bok choy and jasmine rice, Szechuan-braised local mahi mahi with shiitake mushrooms, and grilled Chinois- style Colorado lamb chops with chili-mint sauce and Hunan sweet-and-sour eggplant with sweet peas.
* Lobby level at Four Seasons Resort Maui in Wailea, Spago is open daily, serving dinner from 5:30 to last seating at 9:30 p.m. Entrees start at $38. Call 879-2999.
The Maui Mall in Kahului will kick up its heels from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, with its Year of the Rabbit celebration and Siu's Chinese Kitchen will be right in the thick of it. You may go to its walk-up counter for hot and authentic buffet foods or check out what it will serve at its food booth.
"Every year, I serve my same family recipes for jai, a vegetarian Monk's food we do Hong-Kong style; and we make jin doi, which is Chinese mochi; as well as gau, caramel-colored cakes sprinkled with sesame seeds."
At the restaurant, people wait for the roast duck and the char-siu roast pork to come out hot from the oven every day at 10:30 a.m. For regular catering order, please call ahead.
* Siu's Chinese Kitchen is located in the Maui Mall in Kahului. It's open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., except on Friday when it stays open until 9 p.m., and Sunday, when it opens at 9 a.m. For catering or takeout orders, call 871-0828.