Yunnan Kitchen has long been on our list of ‘must tries’. We tend to avoid the early feeding frenzy of new openings these days, but we waited so long even missed the original Chef! The new Chef, Doron Wong, certainly delivered!
Yunnan Kitchen has a rather large space with exposed brick walls, an open kitchen and good sized bar. They have one large format table at bar height in front of the bar either for large parties or bar overflow. Wood banquettes line the windows with two-tops that can be re-configured for larger parties. The open kitchen displays white china and is immaculate. It can be viewed from the street through the completely windowed front which floods the room with light. If you are there early, it would be a great light for food pics. Unfortunately, we went late and our pics aren’t so great.
The cuisine of Yunnan Province is a fusion of cultures surrounding the Southwest corner of China. Yunnan is known a Shangri-La or ‘lost heaven’. The influences are Chinese, Burmese, Thai and Tibentan among others. And of course all is delivered with a New York point of view and the freshest of local and not so local specialty ingredients. Their motto is
Interpretively Yunnan. Respectfully Chinese. Distinctly New York.
The menu is short and sweet with three sections: Vegetables, Rice & Noodles and From the Mountains to the Sea. There are a total of 16 menu items and there are daily specials as well. The House Cocktails are creative fusions, with one offering for each alcohol (vodka, tequila, rum, gin, rye) and as a light option, the Chinese Michelada. I was a bit obsessed with this one and plan to recreate at home. It is Tsingtao beer (a favorite of mine from my 25+ trips to this very city), ginger beer, fresh lemon juice, soy and Sichuan peppercorn.
We chose two vegetables, one noodle dish, and two Mountains to Sea dishes. Like everywhere these days, everything is made to share. What was refreshing about this was the prices. Dishes range from $10-$18. There was not one we did not love. The Lao Hu (Tiger) Salad was so refreshing. The stir fried mushrooms were a rather huge serving of oyster, shitake and Sawtooth mushrooms from Idaho laced with Benton’s cured ham from Tennessee. This one is tough to eat with the slippery black chopsticks! The prawns were deep fried with lime leaf. A MUST-have. The salty goodness sticks to your fingers after removing the shell. We could have had another three orders of the juicy mid-rare lamb meatballs Shao Kao (‘barbecue’ or grilled skewers) in Yunan spices (Sichuan Pepper, Cumin). But the big winner was the cold noodles with pulled pork which ended our service and left me stuffed to the gills. We haven’t had a great meal like this since Wong (RIP). But now for sure we’ve got to go to Red Farm, another spot we’ve neglected.
Lao Hu Salad – cucumber, cilantro, shaved radish, sesame oil 12
Stir Fried Mushrooms – king oyster, fa gu, sawtooth, Benton’s ham, chiles 13
Crispy Whole Prawns – lime leaf 15
It got entirely too dark for my iPhone to handle at this point, so I defer to the fine photography on Yunnan Kitchen’s website.
Lamb Meatballs Shao Kao – Yunnan Spices 13
Spicy Pulled Pork Cold Noodles – chrysanthemum, cherry tomatoes, aromatic chili oil 18
We hope to go back to Yunnan Kitchen although there are so many places to go that doesn’t often happen. It is a good spot to remember if wandering the LES. Most tables are reserved for Walk Ins, although they do offer tables on City Eats. But who uses that? We did!
79 Clinton Street – LES