THIS Saturday is Chinese New Year, which Jimmy Lee’s Lychee Oriental restaurant will be marking on Mitchell Street from tonight.

Customers will be offered a free cocktail to go with their meal until Sunday.

Jimmy says the easiest way to understand the focus of New Year for the Chinese community is to think of it in the context of other celebrations based around gathering with friends and family for food.

It’s something that was important for him growing up and he enjoys involving his customers in the tradition.

As owner and chef of Lychee Oriental he is closely personally involved with the restaurant and enjoys the sense of connection that comes from that.

“I’m basically here all the time, I want to make sure everything is right. Through the business, I’ve made so many friends, just gettingto know people from them visiting and enjoying the food. It’s a very Glasgow thing, I think.

“People want to meet you and swap some stories after dinner. I will be getting text messages while I’m in the kitchen from people saying they are coming in, and most of them I’ve only known since I opened here.”

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Scottish ingredients and Chinese cooking harmoniously meet in Jimmy’s kitchen, which adds an interesting aspect to the dishes.

“When my dad had his takeaway business, he used to just go to the Chinese grocers and markets.

“I see how Glasgow restaurateurs use local produce and I have respect for that. I use a lot of fresh Scottish fish – which means I can create an excellent crispy Thai sea bass dish, for instance. I use Asian techniques and look for the point of innovation.”

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In contrast to the traditional Chinese restaurant menu, Lychee Oriental is easy contained on one page. This was a decision to focus on key dishes, while retaining a depth of flavour.

“You are probably used to seeing huge menus in Chinese restaurants and I’ve stripped that back. But within it, there’s the classics so people feel like they can find something that’s familiar to them.

“Then, there are crossover dishes that contain styles from different regions and that’s where I can express myself.”

If you are looking for the best dish to celebrate Chinese New Year this weekend, try Jimmy’s twice cooked pork belly in black bean sauce