The big question leading up to Jasmine 26‘s Lunar New Year dinner was how they’d fill the apportioned three hours. With dragons, show tunes, photographs, and a parade of food — that’s how.
The evening began with a rousing ceremonial dragon dance. After posing for numerous pictures, five glittering creatures stomped, hopped, spun, and slithered as a small band kept the beat on drums and cymbals. Along with bringing us power and dignity for the Year of the Snake, the celebratory ritual set a festive tone for the evening.
After the dragons danced out of the restaurant, a young woman belted out charming renditions of a show tune and a Beatles number. Between the end of the performance and the beginning of the feast, Le and Vinh Truong’s gracious mother gave each guest a red envelope containing a dollar bill for luck in the new year.
Absorbed by the ceremonies, we had hardly noticed we were ravenous. Thankfully, a long parade of traditional Vietnamese fare soon began to crowd our table. An assortment of small dishes, the meal had the feel of dim sum. The food was soulful and the flavors complex. A case in point: caramelized pork belly and hard-boiled egg in a deep broth, served with pickled vegetables. A bitter melon soup studded with pork combined richness and tartness to a wonderful effect. And, in the night’s most memorable morsel, a translucent tapioca wonton was filled with dry ground pork flavored with fish sauce and spices. It looked and tasted strangely beautiful.
To round out the New Year feast, we were treated to five desserts, including sweet black sticky rice with shredded coconut, tapioca sponge cake, and sesame seed balls filled with sweet red bean paste. Too happily full — Thanksgiving full — to finish the first round of desserts, we were offered ever more goodies by the ebullient Truong family (pictured, top). Throughout the evening, they dropped in at each table to describe dishes, explain traditions, and just chat. While the food was delicious and the ceremony uplifting, it was the Truong family’s generosity and warmth that made this night at Jasmine 26 a truly special New Year’s celebration.
Jasmine 26; 8 E 26th St, Minneapolis; 612.870.3800