My heart was beating fast when I walking towards the Shangri-La Hotel (Toronto) on the first day of the Lunar New Year. I could hear the familiar loud drums banging before I reached the entrance way. With my iPhone in my hand I hurried to the crowd standing at the main entrance way. Two colourful Chinese Lions had just started offering their good wishes of prosperity, health and happiness. Fireworks were lit to scare off any evil spirits and not just for a few seconds but for several minutes. This was the most spectacular Lion Dance I have ever seen in this city!
This brought me overwhelming joy and emotion and it reminded of my childhood when I was pretty much raised in Chinatown on weekends as I hung out at my dad’s place of business. The “laisee” offerings with the Lion performers doing their acts brought me right back to when I was small and had to be lifted up to hold out the lettuce and red packet offerings to the Lions so they would also give my dad’s business good wishes for the new year.
As I followed the Lions into the Hotel there were families with little children dressed up in their Chinese New Year outfits. This is very much a time for family. The Shangri-La Hotel had beautifully decorated the Lobby area to celebrate this significant time of the year. Red envelopes hung from branches of a young budding tree. A nice nod to what is also considered the Spring Festival (as referred to in the traditional solar calendar). While not technically spring, it often thought of the turning point of the season and something we can all look forward to.
A three-piece Chinese ensemble played traditional and familiar music. The Guzheng, Erhu and Flute were all soothing to my ears and my soul. Even the little toddlers and babies seem to be lulled into blissful happiness at the sounds.
Paper lantern dragons displayed over the fireplaces and colourful Chinese Lions and Firecrackers served as centrepieces on each table in the Lobby Lounge. It’s all set up for the next couple of weeks for a the hotel’s elegant Chinese New Year inspired Afternoon Tea service.
We’ve experienced Afternoon Tea at the Shangri-La Hotel several times but Chinese New Year is close to my heart, naturally. This is something a little more exquisite along side our family traditions of feasts and celebrations. Reservations are highly encouraged as it’s very popular.
A tea selection book was presented and while there are over 80 to choose from, I’m always drawn to the darker, bolder tea. I’ve selected Iron Goddess in the past but this time I chose black tea blend called The Last Emperor (perhaps I was swayed by the adorable little prince that was seated next to us in his golden outfit). I had mentioned to the server that I like my tea strong…dad has told me in the past that it helps with digestion and cuts through richer foods.
Two presentations of food came — a savoury dim sum box and a sweet tiered tray. Both filled with delicious offerings from Pork & shrimp crispy dumplings, warmed barbecue pork filled puff pastries, rice paper rolls with marinated wild mushrooms, coriander shoots and ginger emulsion, poached Atlantic lobster with citrus creme fraise on brioche and more. The sweet offerings included beautifully presented warm sesame balls, a matcha & red be a roll, milk chocolate and chestnut verrine, along side the hotel’s famous warmed scones. A tropical bombe made of passion fruit, calamansi and coconut was also included — it shimmered like gold and almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
An interesting conversation piece is the mirror placed inside the dim sum box. When you open it, a mirror is right in front of you. While mirrors are not gifted this time of year, it may be used in Feng Shui purposes. The conversation at our table had several thoughts. First, the mirror reflects the beauty around you so that’s a positive. While you may be seeing your own reflection in this state of tranquility and happiness, the mirror can only double that…double happiness!
An interesting conversation piece is the mirror placed inside the dim sum box. When you open it, a mirror is right in front of you. While mirrors are not gifted this time of year, it may be used in Feng Shui purposes. But the placement definitely inspired conversation at our table! We had several thoughts on the mirror… Firstly, the mirror reflects the beauty that surrounds you so that’s a positive…and it’s definitely beautiful here. Perhaps any evil spirits that may be leering over your shoulder would see their own reflection and be scared away?
I’m also going with this idea… while you may be seeing your own reflection in this state of tranquility and happiness, the mirror can only double that…double happiness!
This is a beautiful way to celebrate the New Year and I’m looking forward to returning with friends. I’ll also be marking this for next year as it’s truly one of the highlights of Chinese New Year worth experiencing in Toronto.
The Shangri-La Hotel Toronto’s Chinese New Year Inspired Afternoon Tea continues until February 21st.