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When I saw that Toki Underground was hosting two special pop-up tasting menus for Chinese New Year, I was ecstatic. I quickly called and was one of the lucky ones to snag a reservation for Chef Thang Le’s dinner on Tuesday night.

I was so excited, that there was almost a fear of unrealistic expectations. But Chefs Le and Yang did not disappoint.

I won’t even attempt to pick a favorite course because I simply could not get enough of all the courses, but in summary:

Wish It Was Available in Bulk: Course 2 – the black garlic soubise that accompanied the perfectly prepared scallops and pickled sardines, pomegranate, and turnips.

Best Reinvention: Course 3 – congee quinoa, pig tongue, apples, charred lettuce, soft egg. Pure. Genius. See before and after photos below.

Biggest Surprise: Course 4 – “Buddha’s Delight” of barley, beets, cabbage, carrots, garlic, onions, pumpkin . . . “dressed” in “vinaigrette” in powder form. Normally, the vegetarian course of a meal is boring or sort of the throw away course for me. But Course 4 was probably one of the best preparations of vegetables I’ve ever had!

Most Impressive Culinary Trick: Course 6 – A deboned yet still whole(!) bronzino, bamboo shoots, pumpkin, and grapes. I wish I knew how for my whole steamed red snapper.

1: oyster, smoked trout roe, XO sauce

2: scallops, black garlic soubise, pickled sardines, pomegranate, turmips

3 (before): congee quinoa, pig tongue, apples, charred lettuce, soft egg

3 (after): uhm. i may have liked the congee.

4: buddha's delight

5: pork neck and prawn "banh coun"

6: whole bronzino with bamboo shoots, pumpkin, and grapes

7: quail, lotus rice, wild mushrooms

7: the flip side

8: orange "creamsicle" panna cotta with candied oats & multi citrus granita (aka super refreshing and perfect dessert for an 8 course meal)

dessert pairing: Juzi - black tea lychee syrup, fresh squeezed orange juice, domaine de canton, soju, egg white, orange zest, chocolate bitters

bonus round: moon cake with clemantines

moon cake filling: dates and pecans (so good)

If the Toki’s Year of the Dragon Tasting Menu is indicative of how the coming year is going to be . . . I can’t wait!