Having lettuce chucked at you isn’t usually a sign of a good time. Unless, it’s Chinese New Year, that is.
Sunderland’s celebrations to see in the Chinese Year of The Rooster were certainly something to crow about with an explosion of activity at the Museum and Winter Gardens at the weekend.
But the lion dancing didn’t come to a roaring end there.
In true Far East style the celebrations, which had been organised by city businessmen Harry Collinson and Ian Wong, continued with a feast at Ian’s restaurant Asiana.
It’s a couple of years since I last visited this city centre eaterie, which takes its menu inspiration from a host of far flung corners of Asia.
The view though, the view couldn’t be more Mackem.
As restaurant views go, this one must offer one of the best in the city with a sweeping vista of the River Wear as it meanders out to sea.
Book ahead if you want to bag a window seat, they go fast. We managed to get one of the last remaining tables at the weekend, due to the New Year celebrations, and though it wasn’t a window spot, it was a great place to see the night’s entertainment, which included magician Chris Cross who wowed with his card tricks as well as a traditional Chinese lion dance.
Before we got to that we had the important matter of food to attend to.
The menu’s almost as vast as the Asian continent itself with large sections of chef specialities, pan Asia combinations, sizzling dishes, stir fried dishes, noodles and fried rice dishes and appetisers.
There’s even a small section of English dishes but when in Asiana...
Spoilt for choice, we went with the easy option of the Oriental Banquet which is great value at £22.90 per person for four courses.
To start you get an oldie but a goodie - chicken and sweetcorn soup - which was served piping hot and plump with chicken.
Next up, we shared an aromatic crispy duck between us which was shredded into succulent pieces at our table. There was plenty to go round our group of four and though it’s a notoriously fatty meat, this one wasn’t off-puttingly so.
You can mix and match your mains and we chose a stir fired chicken in satay sauce, crispy beef in Peking sauce and sizzling kind prawns in black bean sauce. We asked if we could add a chicken curry instead of one of the other options which wasn’t a problem with our attentive waiter.
Again, the portions were generous. My favourite? The chunky prawns which came in a delicate black bean sauce so as not to detract from the more subtle nuance of the seafood. Even the chicken curry (I’m not a fan of curry. Weird, I know) won me over with its fresh flavours.
Our waistbands couldn’t accommodate a pudding, which we swerved, but the banquet includes a fourth course of banana fritter with ice cream or coffee.
Instead we rounded off our evening enjoying the rhythmic drumming of the lion dance as it snaked its way down the restaurant, stopping to waggle at diners, in a vibrant spectacle.
Once the dance is done the elaborately decorated lion rears up on its back legs to devour its food.
Here’s where the lettuce comes in as we were sprayed with flying leaves. Legend has it that it brings prosperity.
A full purse AND a full tummy, can it be Chinese New Year every day?