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Lotus Blue

This restaurant serving "Yunnan-inspired modern Chinese cooking"...

www.facebook.com/lotusbluenyc

...had its soft opening this past Friday. A friend and I had dinner Saturday. The two crossing-the-bridge noodle options were unavailable, as were a couple of other menu items we would have liked to try. I won't go into the pluses and minuses of specific dishes, not from Lotus Blue's second day open to the public; this is more a heads-up. N.B.: Our check was discounted 10 percent for "friends and family," though we're neither. Presumably this will apply throughout the soft-opening period, however long that might be.

Dave Cook
www.EatingInTranslation.com

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Lotus Blue
110 Reade St, New York, NY 10013

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  1. Thanks for the info. I guess I'll wait a bit longer for more reports and hopefully they'll find their feet soon (re. the crossing-the-bridge noodles being unavailable).

    1 Reply
    1. thanks for the news...i'm really looking forward to trying it

      10 Replies
      1. re: Simon

        on second thought: wow, that menu is pretty underwhelming...not much Yunnan food on there...

        1. re: Simon

          Four of us had a very good dinner here last night. Although the menu is currently limited, Owner Robert, who hails from Beijing and has traveled in Yunnan, told us (in flawless English) that they plan to add more dishes in the coming weeks. I thought the flavors were interesting and complex and represented the position of Yunnan between the Chinese landmass and the SE Asian realm. It is a cuisine that I would like to explore further.

          Among our favorites were:

          Pork meatballs in a luscious mushroom-studded brown sauce. These are designed to be accompanied by the Seared Yunnan Buns, which add a touch of sweetness to the combination.

          Banana Blossom and Mango salad reminded me of versions of a similar dish I've enjoyed in Thailand and Laos, underscoring the geographical (and ethnic, I believe) proximity of the parts of Yunnan to SE Asia.

          Steamed Pork Belly with Candied Plum was another highlight, long belly strips bathed in a ever-so-slightly sweet plum sauce with hints of star anise. Complex saucing. I like this a lot.

          Stir-Fried Mushrooms.

          Crisp Fried Red snapper, impeccably fresh fish, served with a piquant Sweet and sour sauce (not cloying and with just the right hint of vinegar)

          Sesame Pumpkin Pancakes. Wonderful juxtaposition of textures. Pumpkin flavored with black sesame paste,black coriander, cassia, and other spices and studded with white sesame seeds and sesame brittle.

          The Crossing Bridge Noodles are now available, BTW.

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          Lotus Blue
          110 Reade St, New York, NY 10013

          1. re: erica

            Thanks for the report. Did your party get to try the Crossing Bridge Noodles, by the way? If so, how did you like them?

            1. re: erica

              Re-read my report and I see that I forgot to elaborate on the mushrooms...served on a white platter, this was a beautiful array of various types of mushrooms with shitake predominating on that evening. (That will change according to the market) Light sauce with complex flavors. Lovely dish.

              Also, the sauce served with the fried red snapper was a sweet/sour/chili sauce with a hintn of heat. Very good!

              1. re: erica

                In my initial visits, most of the dishes were very spicy. On my recent visits, the dishes were all tones down, except one. The mango banana blossom salad which still had its spice and was excellent. Very similar to what I've had in Thailand. The pork fried rice was mild compared to before but still good. The red snapper was made well, but I doubt if that is a Yunnan dish as I have had similar in Vietnamese and Thai restaurants. The sautéed chicken and pineapple was delicious. I like the grilled bread. They do not serve coffee with the dessert. They do grow coffee in the Yunnan, in fact it is the province's third largest export. Lotus Blue I think is under the impression that coffee is not authentic Yunnan when in fact it surely is.

                1. re: foodwhisperer

                  They do grow coffee in Yunnan, but the quantity of coffee grown has only in recent history been on a large commercial scale. Yunnan is much more famous for tea, Pu'er cha. Coffee, only within the past decade or so has had any popularity in China. The coffee that is sold is very different from the coffee sold in the US. Very little coffee and much more sugar and cream or milk to eliminate any bitterness. In China, from my experience, many people don't even like the flavor of coffee and only drink it to have a Western feeling.

                  Yunnan shares flavors with Sichuan, Vietnam and Burma, fried fish with spices is very common in Yunnan.

              2. re: Simon

                I don't think the restaurant is claiming it's an "authentic" Yunan restaurant. Their marketing calls the place a "Yunan-inspired" modern Chinese restaurant. I think we need to keep our expectations in check.

                Still, I'd be very interested in hearing what you, and others who've had experience with real Yunan cuisine, think of the dishes here. I think the rest of us who haven't had real Yunan food before can only rely on our palates and determine whether we "like" the food or not. It'd be good to have a point of reference in terms of how well the dishes compare to the flavors and textures of authentic Yunan food.

                Here's an article on Lotus Blue: http://tribecacitizen.com/2012/02/07/...

                >> "While Lotus Blue isn’t serving traditional Yunnan food (“It’s been adapted for modern palates, for New Yorkers,” says Lim), it’s still the only Yunnan restaurant in New York City, and possibly on the East Coast."

                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                  i will surely check it out...here's what wiki says re: cuisine:

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yunnan_c...

                  The warm cheeses and the ham-accented dishes and some of the grilled foods, esp some very herby grilled fish and vegetables (which are somewhat similar to Lao cuisine) are what i am hoping for...in China, i've also had some very sour (from strong-flavored pickled veggies) ground meat dishes that i've loved...

                  1. re: Cheeryvisage

                    Good point! I'm afraid my only experience in Yunnan was at the airport in Kunming. The fact that every other airport shop was lined floor-to-ceiling with gift boxes of mushrooms does give a clue into its importance in the cuisine. There was a lavish restaurant on the second floor of the terminal. Alas, a meal there was nixed by my travel companions in favor of cheese sandwiches on white bread served at the "western" coffee shop in in the same terminal. (Slight digression here...you can see that the bitterness lingers! )

                    1. re: erica

                      I am unfamiliar with Yunnan food. My Chinese friends have no idea what it is either. But we really want to find out. I'm not sure what region Xian Xian restaurant is. In any case, I am thrilled to have any kind of Chinese restaurant in Tribeca. The only edible food that delivers is from Excellent Dumpling House and it isn't great by any means. Lily's was bad and the only place around here. I hope the food at Lotus Blue is good, I will be there often if it is.

              3. They have some killer cocktails too - I liked one that had basil and Sichuan peppercorn in it. One was not enough but three was too many!

                I think the definition of Yunnan cuisine might be pretty broad since it is China’s sixth largest province (almost the size of California) with 50 million people and over forty distinct non-Han minorities living in three different climatic zones: temperate, sub-tropical and tropical.

                Yunnan produces lots of rice, wheat, corn, sorghum, potatoes, sugar cane, peanuts, soybeans, peas, rape, tea, oranges, bananas, pineapples, coconuts, and walnuts. It is rich in many minerals, tropical plants, and flue-cured tobacco. Their foods are varied and are influenced by these large numbers of minorities, many of Muslim heritage.

                Milk and cheese is part of its culinary history: likely arriving from both the Mongols and Indians. Yunnan is known for having many special products: Yunnan ham is well known, lotus root from East Lake, carp from West Lake, a particular rice cultivar from Jiangwei and milk fan from Dengchuan. Milk fan is a high-protein high-fat milk product made by pouring milk into a large pot of acidic water and stirring it with long chopsticks until it curdles. The milk fan is then poured out onto large flat surfaces, smoothed somewhat and then dried. It can be made sweet or salty, and can be roasted. The sweet variety is soaked in tea, the salty type fried in oil and sprinkled with, you guessed it - more salt. Both are eaten with some roasted half-cooked pig dipped in a special sauce. The meat is very tender, the skin very crisp. Both are eaten with a fish casserole sometimes made with an osmanthus flower jam.

                Another staple is a sort of purple rice, made into a flat cake then filled, really rolled around a you tiao and spread under it.

                16 Replies
                1. re: scoopG

                  but alas, Lotus Blue does not have any of those cheeses and hams...

                  1. re: Simon

                    Trying to import some of these special ingredients or recreate them here is problematic.

                    1. re: scoopG

                      Kian Lam Kho, the consulting chef who developed the menu at Lotus Blue, gave his take on adopting Yunnan cuisine for NYC here: http://redcook.net/2012/01/11/project...

                      1. re: Cheeryvisage

                        I went to Lotus Blue tonite, which is in the location of the old Nam restaurant. Nam had figured out how to "upscale" Vietnamese food and Lotus Blue seems to have successfully "upscaled" Yunnan or the fusion that they do. I almost ordered the Crossing Bridge noodles in broth, but the owner was steering me toward a chicken soup where they slow cook a chicken and get a very special soup that is in limited availability each day. Next time I will get that dish, this time the person I was with did not want any soup. So I started with a mango banana blossom salad which was excellent. It flavors reminiscent of the salad at Zab Elee. The meat ball dish was good and had a sweet type sauce that was great to dip the buns they have in. The buns are very good.
                        The fried rice with pickled turnip and ground pork was my favorite dish. The pork belly dish candied plums was OK but because the pork belly was sliced very thin, it was a bit dry. The shrimp with candied olives was very good. The shrimp were in the shell with heads on, and was very similar to the Chili shrimp Viet Nam style. It's the same owner as Nam, so I think they incorporated some of their old tastes in that dish and in the red snapper dish. The tapioca dessert was very good, so was the pumpkin sesame pancake.
                        I am happy to have this restaurant in the neighborhood. The place was packed, and I believe Mimi Sheraton was at the next table. There are still plenty of dishes on the menu that I wish to try.The dishes are not huge, so you can try many different things. Right now they have a special of buy one get one on drinks and the 10% off for family and friends. They also had a special Valentines menu for $88 that included a free bottle of wine. The wine alone is worth $40. My bill for 2 people was about $100.including tax and drinks.
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                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                          oh didnt see someone already tried it

                          1. re: Lau

                            The food is good at Lotus Blue. The Yunnan part must be marketing. Although the owner might be from Yunnan . Check it out. The fried rice with pickled turnip and ground pork is delicious. Probably not from any designated area, just some chef's idea. I enjoyed the food at Lotus Blue a lot more than the food at Wong. Regardless of the exact type of cooking. Hey, even Zaab Elee stretches the Issan thing a bit, especially since I have not found a person there from Issan

                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                              The consulting chef traveled to Yunnan, then returned to NYC and devised a menu for the restaurant.

                              Regardless, I agree that if the food is good, it really doesn't matter if it's not authentic Yunnan cuisine. We'll just treat it as Chinese fusion. :)

                              1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                Yep Cheeryvisage, Enjoy the food. The owner cooked great Viet Namese food before. They are talented. Too much hangup on authenticity. Even when I eat Filipino food in the homes of Filipinos, i cant truly say it is authentic, they always " try something new". Same with my good friend from Shanghai, always throws somehting in that might not be authentic. I used to think authentic "jewish food" needed to have cigarette ashes in it. Because that' how my mom cooked, with a cigarette dangling from her lips. The ash would always get mixed in. But the bottom line is , if it tastes good, eat it

                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                  Unless I am mistaken, Lotus Blue is the first restaurant belonging to the owner, Robert, who hails from Beijing and who owns restaurant(s) in that city. This is the former Nam space and he told us that the owners of Nam vacated, choosing to concentrate on the other NYC restaurant that they own. (Do not know the name of this one, though)

                                  1. re: erica

                                    I was mistaken about the owner being from Nam. The really nice friendly waitress who is Chinese?Malaysian is from Nam. There are 3 owners, one is Chinese and i'm not sure but I believe his name is Jeffrey. The other two owners are Filipino . All of the owners are really nice people. This was my third time to Lotus Blue and the food is still very good. The fried rice is great. I have yet to try the special soup. They make a special chicken soup that cooks for many hours, but they only make a few servings of it each day. My only gripe is that they do not serve coffee of any kind. They say they may add some special Chinese coffee that is served with condensed milk. That would be just what I want. Oh, they reiterated that absolutely no MSG is ever used,

                                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                                      Coffee is such a strong taste and smell, it overwhelms other flavors. Do you feel it adds to a meal or is it a caffeine thing? I find that sometimes, at brunch places, the smell of coffee is overwhelming and takes away from the food.

                                      1. re: Pookipichu

                                        I find coffee with dessert adds to the meal. The strong flavor of coffee does not affect the tastes of the meal itself. In vietnamese restaurants i always enjoy that type of coffee. In Italian I always enjoy espresso after the meal. This type of food is no different, the coffee with dessert would certainly be a nice finishing touch for me

                                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                                          Ok I understand now. I know people who insist on drinking coffee or cola with their meal no matter how delicate the flavors or aromas and it perplexes me. After the meal is a whole other matter.

                              2. re: foodwhisperer

                                the ground pork and pickled turnip is actually one of the more Yunnan-influenced things on the menu...that dish is normally done served over rice, rather than as fried rice...when i was there for a drink, i met the consulting chef and he said as much...

                                re: Zaab-Elee, there are lots of Isaan people working there (two of the managers whom i've chatted with many times, and i believe much of the kitchen staff)...

                                1. re: Simon

                                  Interesting on both things. The fried rice is good though. When I was at Zaab Elee, I spoke to the manager who bought me a beer, and several others , and they all were from BKK area. Doesn't matter though, if they know how to cook it's ok. My issan girlfriend , from Yasothon, could cook any Thai dish. Issan food or otherwise, especially vegetables, laab and fish. But she knew how to make a good pad thai also, spicy enough to make a grown man cry.

                        1. re: Lau

                          i went by last week and had a drink at the bar...i can't comment on the food, as i didn't eat...but i can say with a good deal of certainty that the menu has only a token relationship w/ the food of Yunnan...there simply aren't many Yunnan dishes on the menu...for all i know, the food may tasty in a "modern" way, but i'm disappointed as i'd been really excited about the idea of eating real Yunnan cuisine in NYC, which is not what this is...

                          1. re: Simon

                            well there is one in the LES that is supposed to open, so lets cross our fingers (i'm quite interested as I know little about Yunnan cuisine)

                            1. re: Lau

                              yeah, i'm tracking that one too...though when i googled it the other day, one of the results was a posting they'd made on craigslist looking for a sous-chef...

                        2. My husband and I had an excellent dinner at Lotus Blue a couple of nights ago. We almost never have cocktails, but were intrigued by the various infusions. I don't remember what they call it, but the Sichuan peppercorn-infused gin/Campari/vermouth drink was nicely spicy and not sweet.

                          We started with a spicy chrysanthemum greens salad and razor clams with tomato and pineapple salsas. The salad was simple, spicy, fresh & delicious. We both liked the tomato salsa on the clams better than the pineapple, though that was good zipped up with a little pepper oil. The clams were a bit cooler than we would have preferred.

                          Next were the fish cross-bridge fish noodles: they brought a bowl filled with the noodles, poured in a wonderfully fragrant broth, set in a raw quail egg, and gave us a plate full of fish slices, vegetables, herbs and flower petals for us to add to be cooked by the hot broth. Luscious, light, yummy.

                          I'm glad we hadn't started with the prawns with candied olives, because I probably would have told them to cancel the other dishes and just bring me more of these. For me at least they're pretty hard to eat with chopsticks because they're whole in the shell, but it didn't matter: they were spicy, a tiny bit sweet, and absolutely delicious. The multigrain rice with mushroom and bamboo shoots accompanied it well - nicely chewy and earthy.

                          Dessert: sticky rice pancakes filled with black sesame paste and coated with toasted sesame seeds were sticky, not sweet, quite nice -- I liked them more than my husband did. We also got some creamy & just-sweet-enough coconut tapioca pudding, which came with a ring of rose petal syrup around its edge.

                          The servers were knowledgable and friendly, though perhaps a bit unpolished.

                          All in all, we left full and satisfied. We intend to come back with more people so we can try the steam pot chicken, which the menu says serves 4.

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                          Lotus Blue
                          110 Reade St, New York, NY 10013