The year: rabbit. The celebrations: delectable

Lunar New Year is rapidly approaching, and whether or not its arrival speaks directly to your cultural identity, it can absolutely speak to your snacking identity.

From golden scallop dumplings at regional-Chinese high-flyer Spice Temple to firecrackers, lion dancing and a whole lot of street feasting at Box Hill’s Golden Age Lunar New Year Festival, Melbourne will spring to life with the coming of the zodiac-elect rabbit on Sunday 22 January; here are eight delicious ways to mark the occasion.

Things that are banquets

Spice Temple’s Chinese New Year Banquet
Southbank’s Spice Temple has written a Lunar New Year sharing menu to please even the most rascally of rabbits. Drunken abalone with huadiao wine and Chinese wolfberry, roast pork with Chinese mustard pickles and a gua bao riff on Peking duck are just a few of the many reasons to welcome the incoming rabbit from the banks of the Yarra at this grand Melbourne mainstay.
Spice Temple, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank, $159 per person with optional matching wines at $75 per person, from Tuesday 17 January until Sunday 29 January, book here

Flower Drum’s Chef’s Signature Banquet
The rabbit would love nothing more than for you to sink your teeth into six courses of Melbourne’s finest Cantonese food at the landmark Flower Drum. This isn’t a Lunar New Year-specific menu per se, but it does include the likes of mud crab with flying fish roe, steamed crayfish tail with spring onion and ginger, and grain-fed eye fillet with Sichuan sauce. Bookings are notoriously hard to come by over the Lunar New Year weekend, but the bunny will be most pleased whenever you manage to celebrate them.
Flower Drum, 17 Market Ln, Melbourne, $250 per person with optional matching wines at $70, book here

David’s Unlimited Lunar New Year Dim Sum Dinner
Breakfast for dinner. A capital idea, always – but has it ever been as compelling as night-time yum cha? David’s does theirs differently, invoking the tasty traditions of Shanghainese cuisine for a yum cha spread turned out with Rabbit-approved flair. Make sure you’re there for the interactive lion dance.
David’s, 4 Cecil Pl, Prahran, Sunday 22 January from 6pm, lion dance at 7.15pm, book here.

Hawker Hall’s Lunar New Year banquet
Inspired by the hawker centres of Singapore and Malaysia, Windsor’s Hawker Hall is doing it all for the gracious bunny this year, putting on a banquet, a lion dance, and a fortune cookie raffle with a grand prize of an $888 Hawker Hall voucher. You’ll need to dine between Thursday 19 January and Sunday 22 January to be in the hunt for the loot, and the rabbit looks forward to receiving you at your convenience.
Hawker Hall, 98 Chapel St, Windsor, $88 per person, Thursday 19 January to Sunday 22 January, book here.

Things that are otherwise delicious

Black Star Pastry’s Chinese New Year rabbit cookies
The grand high bun has been immortalised in cookie form this year by local baking giant, Black Star Pastry, who had the genius idea to carve lightly-salted, coconut-crusted, buttery shortbread into bite-sized rabbit shapes and letters that spell out ‘BLKSTR’. That they’re available right now pleases the bun no end.
Available to order now from Black Star Pastry here, $6 per lucky rabbit shortbread, $35 per pack of seven shortbreads, including one lucky rabbit.

Otao’s dumpling-making class
The rabbit appreciates nothing more than a home-made dumpling. In a stroke of good fortune, Richmond’s Otao Kitchen is hosting a comprehensive, 150-minute dumpling-making class on the morning before Lunar New Year, giving you time to perfect your technique before celebrations begin in earnest. Ingratiate yourself to the zodiac-elect by learning how to bao their favourite festive food.
Otao Kitchen, 393 Victoria Street, Abbotsford, 10am, Saturday 21 January, from $139 per adult, book here

Things that are festivals

Golden Age 2023 Whitehorse Lunar New Year Festival
You know who likes a party? The rabbit – even more so when the party is thrown in their honour. Box Hill knows how to do it better than most, with this year’s festival set to include over 40 food stalls, lion dancing, firecrackers, martial arts and more. It’s going down the weekend after Lunar New Year on Saturday 28 January and it’s free; hop to it.
Golden Age 2023 Whitehorse Lunar New Year Festival, Main Street, Box Hill, from 11am Saturday and noon 28 January, free. 

Victoria Street Lunar Festival 2023
What if we told you that the Year of the Rabbit was also the Year of the Cat? That’s how it goes according to the Vietnamese zodiac, and where better to inaugurate their furry excellence than on Richmond’s bustling Victoria Street? Local restaurants will be extending their trade to the footpaths, with extra food stalls and entertainment lining the street. Note: this festival takes place two weeks after Lunar New Year on Sunday 5 February, giving the rabbit time enough to make good their exit.
Victoria Street Lunar Festival 2023, Victoria St, Richmond (between Hoddle St and Church St), noon-9pm Sunday 5 February, free.  

By Frank Sweet