Kunming & beyond restaurants
I'll be in Kunming for 3 weeks in November and wonder if anyone has any restaurants to recommend. We are interested in any and all types of cooking - from neighborhood dives to fancy hotels. Don't know much about Yunnan cuisine but I guess we'll learn. Anyone have any experience with the cooking school in Kunming? Then it's on to Dali and Lijiang so any leads on restaurants in those areas are welcome too.
I spent a month in Kunming a couple of years ago. Here are the best places I found. The first one is my top choice.
He Feng Xuan(荷风轩), on Cui Hu Nan Lu. We ate there numerous times; the menu repays exploration.
Jiang Brothers (numerous shops). We ate at the shop on Ren Min Zhong Lu. The speciality is crossing the bridge rice noodle soup (过桥面汤).
Gu Ming Zhu (古名局) on a side street which crosses (to the west) the pedestrian portion of Zheng Yi Road. The restaurant is on a walkway which branches north off the side street.
In the Kunming Hotel, corner of Dong Feng and Bei Ta roads, is the Carrianna Restaurant, which serves Chiu Chao (潮州) food. Goose dishes are wonderful.
Wu Yi Nian Lao Kun Ming (五十年老昆明) is architecturally very interesting; the food was somewhat hit and miss.
On the north side of Xuefu Lu, on the side road which leads to the Yunnan Institute of Geography, there's a good restaurant with mix of local specialities and standard Chinese dishes. I particularly enjoyed the braised goat cheese, frog, ganbian tudousi (fried potatoes), and mala tofu.
The French Cafe has really good strawberry tart in season. It also has reasonable baguettes and okay qiche.
I didn't do enough research before arriving in Kunming, so I followed the Lonely Planet's recommendation to check out the Muslim quarter. And for once, the Lonely Planet gave me some outstanding info regarding food: There were some AMAZING dumplings at a Muslim restaurant not far southwest of the center of town (where the Carrefour and KFC etc. are located). Beware, though, that the 2007 LP China book's map of Kunming is already a bit outdated; a new shopping mall or fancy new apartments are being built on top of the eastern half of the east-west street on which the Muslim restaurants are located. It's parallel to Dongfeng Xilu, to the south. You have to access the road from the west, and at first, it doesn't look like there's anything there. You may also be able to walk south from Dongfeng Xilu down an alley alongside the construction, then make a right.
LP didn't recommend a specific Muslim restaurant, so I picked one at random and it was great. There was no signage in English, but I've attached a picture of the sign. And the amazing dumplings. They have great noodles too, seen here:
Sorry I don't remember the name of the street with the Muslim restaurants. I sold off the LP book in Jinghong. There are at least three or four Muslim restaurants along the east-west road, and then more to the south.
Oh and does anybody know what THIS vendor is selling? (Besides peculiar peanut-butter-and-jelly flatbread sandwiches, that is.) This is near the Wal-Mart Supercenter:
See also this thread (which I wish I'd sought BEFORE I went to Kunming... duh):
Although a lot of this info may already be outdated, because the Chinese constantly tear everything down in order to erect boring new shopping malls. They largely do not prize the historic. Oh, and if you haven't been to China before, and if you don't smoke, then take a face mask. Or learn the words for "face mask" so you can buy one there. Everyone smokes cigarettes everywhere, constantly. After a couple of days, my throat felt like it was filled with shards of glass and I couldn't enjoy the excellent food so much. In fact, despite the excellent food, I soon wanted to escape from China as fast as possible. In some ways I wish I could've spent more than a day in Kunming and also made it to Lijiang and Dali but my throat thanks me for heading back to Thailand. (And it was raining a lot, too.)
Just basic - the local dish - crossing bridge noodles is quite good. Very similar to vietnamese Pho, but they don't say so in Yunnan.
Look for minority dishes, and game, and a variety of mushrooms. These can get expensive.
DianCai (yunnan food) has been highly regarded. Explore and enjoy.