Dining With Denise Neil

Celebrate Year of the Rooster at Asian restaurants, Exploration Place

Saigon Restaurant will celebrate the Lunar New Year with lion dancers on Saturday.
Saigon Restaurant will celebrate the Lunar New Year with lion dancers on Saturday. File photo

The Lunar New Year begins Saturday, and members of several East Asian countries living in Wichita will spend the weekend celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Rooster.

Wichitans will have a few opportunities to soak up some culture and take part in various celebrations at several Asian restaurants putting on lion dances and food specials. A list of those follows.

They also can visit Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean, for the launch of a new traveling exhibit, called “Voyage to Vietnam: Celebrating the Tet Festival.” The exhibit, which opens Saturday and runs though April 23, focuses on Vietnam’s traditional New Year’s celebration, called Tet.

Wichita has a large Southeast Asian community, said Christina Bluml, director of marketing at Exploration Place. And although Wichitans know a lot about Vietnamese food, thanks to some popular local restaurants, they’re not as well-informed about the culture.

The Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose put the traveling exhibit together to help fill in the blanks.

“The whole point of this exhibit it to educate people about this culture,” Bluml said.

As part of the exhibit, visitors can try a popular Vietnamese game called bau cau ca cop, dance with a lion mask, pose for an interactive family photo and program a fireworks show. On Saturday, the St. Anthony Lion Dance team also will perform throughout the day.

Though the exhibit opens this weekend, many of the more interesting events will happen next weekend. The reason: Members of Wichita’s Vietnamese community will be busy celebrating the Lunar New Year at home with their families and aren’t available to come out on Saturday.

From 1 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 4, activities at the museum will include performances of Vietnamese music, an appearance by Wichita’s Miss Vietnam and more lion dancing.

Several more activities are planned throughout the exhibit’s stay, including a mini-Tet festival in the museum — with Vietnamese food — on March 18. For a complete lineup of events, go to exploration.org.

Admission is regular museum admission, free for Exploration Place members.

Restaurants putting on Lunar New Year celebrations

▪ Saigon Oriental Restaurant at 1103 N. Broadway puts on a big event every year, and the party this year is planned for Saturday. The lion dancers will perform at 12:30 and 7 p.m. in the restaurant, and it’s always a loud and colorful spectacle.

▪ ICTea, a new tea shop at 3300 N. Rock Road, has a party planned for Sunday. Lion dancers will perform there at 2 p.m., and the shop is offering 25 percent off orders on both Saturday and Sunday.

▪ Pho Special at 2409 E. Pawnee also will have lion dancers at noon on both Saturday and Sunday.

▪ Oh Yeah China Bistro at 3101 N. Rock Road also will be celebrating the new year with lion dancers performing in the restaurant at noon on Saturday.