New Jersey Date Night is a series on NJ Flavor by relationship writer Craig Rogers.

Holiday festivities always make for a great date night, but have you ever celebrated the Year of the Rat? The animal changes annually, but the fun and flavor of Chinese New Year is always a constant. 

Beginning on Jan. 25, the lunar new year comes with lots of red paper decorations, couplets (the vertical two-lined poems hanging on doors) and tons of great food. It’s also the time to welcome all the luck you can handle. 

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Get ready for a New Jersey Date Night where the rat isn’t so bad!

A Family Affair

When the recipes are passed down from generation to generation you know the meal is going to be good and Hunan Taste makes it great on many levels. With two New Jersey locations in Denville and Montclair, you and your date will experience their tried and true dishes in two very distinctive environments. 

The Denville location was originally an ice rink. It was converted into an authentic Chinese-style pagoda and is considered to be a beloved Denville historic landmark. The restaurant in Montclair has the feel of a very hip and perfectly appointed European bistro. 

The constant is the food, ranging from Peking duck to General Tso’s Triple Fragrance with water chestnuts and broccoli. Be sure to arrive hungry because with appetizers like Dan Dan Noodle and Bang Bang Chicken, you’re going to want something before the main course.

For more information about Hunan Taste, visit

Little Packages with Big Flavor

A traditional Chinese New Year treat is dim sum, which translates to English as “touch the heart.” Shanghai Dumpling in Edison will do exactly that with their assortment of these little buns, dumplings and rice noodle rolls. 

From steamed vegetable dumplings to fried pork buns, you’d your date will feel the luck of the new year. Be sure to try their steamed crab and pork buns — absolutely delicious! In addition to dim sum, you’ll find a full range of Chinese dishes including a variety of special soups and noodles.

For more information on the Shanghai Dumpling, visit their website at

One Smart Noodle

When it’s a family-owned restaurant and the family is from Xinjiang, you know you’re in for tasty noodles. Coming from wheat belt of Western China lends itself to making noodles a dinnertime staple. Shan Shan Noodles prepares both the Lanzhou style hand-pulled noodles as well as knife-peeled noodles.

Located in Parsippany, their fried hand-pulled noodles with beef, chicken, pork or seafood really hits the mark. Other choices include seafood soup with noodles, shrimp, fish ball and crab and cold noodles with hot and spicy chicken.

For more information on Shan Shan Noodle, visit

The Spice of Life

Han Dynasty in Cherry Hill is a master at creating a perfect entrée as well as reminding us that Chinese food can be deliciously spicy. A great example would be your choice of meat from chicken to rabbit prepared hot pot style, cooked with black mushrooms, bamboo shoots, peppers, Sichuan peppercorns in a spicy hot pot sauce served in a sizzling mini wok. 

Another spicy choice your date might like would be pork belly prepared in double cooked style with leeks, hot peppers and chili oil.  If you’re both craving a little sweet with your spicy, the lamb stir-fry with ginger, garlic, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms and peppers is just the ticket!

For more information on the Han Dynasty, visit

Making Room for the Luck

Celebrating Chinese New Year also includes giving your home a Jersey grandmother-style cleaning, as it’s important to remove all the bad from your house to make room for the good. This tradition can and should be applied to relationships. The new year brings a perfect opportunity to eliminate negative presences in your life. 

If you’re coupled, consider removing what’s not so great in or around your relationship, be it certain behaviors or perhaps friends who don’t support your vision together. It’s a great time for singles to take inventory of what’s working and what’s not in your dating life — perhaps giving your online profile a needed update or trying new ways to meet new prospective dates. 

Regardless of your relationship status, taking the time to acknowledge the not-so-great things in our lives and determine a game plan to change them might just be the luckiest move you could make.

Craig Rogers is the guy who gets relationships write. Author of The 49th Challenge, Craig has written countless articles on dating, relationships and breakup recovery. To learn more about Craig, visit

What’s your idea for a great New Jersey Date?  Tell Craig all about it at



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