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May 24, 2012 08:20 AM

Yunnan Kitchen

I went to Yunnan Kitchen with a large group a few days ago and tried almost everything on the menu. I had seen another CH review complaining of blandness but this wasn't my experience - the food was fresh, delicious and expertly prepared with lots assertive flavors and unexpected seasonings. I don't really know what Yunnan food is supposed to taste like but the flavors seemed more authentically "asian" than Lotus Blue while being in step with the modern profiles of Momofuku Ssam Bar and Wong.

I particularly liked:

King Trumpet Mushrooms - sawtooth herb, ham
Fried Potato Balls - Yunnan spices, soy-vinegar
Tofu Ribbon Salad - mint, cilantro, chilies
Shredded Chicken - tamarind, crispy taro
Charred Eggplant - sawtooth herb, crushed peanuts, chilies
Ham Rice Cakes - chilies
Scallion fried rice - egg
Grilled skewers (shao kao, particularly the crispy chicken and ground lamb).

For a full meal I'd recommend 3 or 4 small plates per person. The service is great and the room has a nice open feel with big windows. The restaurant takes reservations for parties of 6 or more (closed Tuesdays) though smaller parties can be seated without much of a wait. We plan to return soon.

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  1. I would be the other reviewer - I've been meaning to pop back in and give it another chance. I didn't really want to file an opinion after one meal, but it came up in the context of another thread so I offered my take.

    I didn't really pick up any "modern" similarities with Wong, Momo, etc. The food seemed pretty straightforward, a few ingredients per plate, prepped simply, and nothing unexpected to my palate at least. Not that there's anything wrong with that - there's nothing unexpected at, say, Balthazar or Katz's or Charles' Pan-Fried Chicken or Oriental Garden (to bring it back to Chinese food) either, and they're all great for what they are.

    1. i've been a couple times...overall i like the place: the food is healthy, the staff is nice, the owner is charming, and it's a comfy rustic fav dishes so far are the lamb meatballs, the tofu ribbon salad, grilled eggplant, and the lily bulb veggie stirfry...i found the chicken shao kao very bland...supposedly there are working on perfecting the grilled Yunnan goat cheese and will be serving it when it's just right...and supposedly their beer/wine license is coming soon...

      Is it the rootsy Yunnan place of my dreams?, or at least not yet...there's little of the sour herby dishes that i used to enjoy in China...when i went the first time though, they gave me a green hot sauce on request that was stellar, and i recommended that they serve that as a standard condiment (they didn't have any left the next time though)...they could also use a better chili oil supplier/recipe, as the one they serve is bizarrely bland...

      But i still dig the place as i like the vibe and there are enough small plates that i like to keep me going back...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Simon

        Simon, I find your description of the place pretty accurate. Although it is many months since the opening. They do now serve beer and wine. The chicken skewers as you say are pretty bland, but they are decent and have a dry spice blend on the side. The tofu ribbon salad I think is their best dish, nice consistency ( like a pappardelle) and just enough spice.
        I didn't see any grilled goat cheese on the menu. The shrimps with heads on were pretty simple but good. The fried rice was not very good at all.
        The place has a warm atmosphere and rustic, but i don't recommend going when it is cold weather. The heating system is virtually non-existent.
        Lotus Blue's fried rice with pickled turnips is way better than Yunnan Kitchen's fried rice. I think overall Lotus Blue has a more creative and tastier menu. Which one is more authentic? I question if either of them is authentic.
        The server was not very friendly at all, but i'm sure servers have changed many times since this thread was created.

      2. Ugh, I loved that tofu ribbon salad. The rice cakes are also delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed this place, and the bill for splitting many plates between 4 people was only $20.

        1. i like this place, here's my report:

          i think you missed a couple of the best dishes in particular the pork shao kao, fried ma la chicken (there is also a ma la chicken, but the fried mala chicken is better) and the shrimp. you can see all of them in my post

          4 Replies
          1. re: Lau

            Lau I read your blog. Your descriptions of the food were right on. The shrimp dish was very good , yet simple. I thought the lime leaves were fried basil leaves. I didn't try eating them. The fried rice as you said was not fluffy enough, that was my main complaint about it. Do you like Lotus Blue's version of fried rice with pork and pickled turnip? i prefer Lotus Blue's. I'll try the Mala chicken next time. I had the chicken shao kao with the dusting of cumin and spices.

            1. re: foodwhisperer

              definitely get the lamb and pork shao kao those are definitely must try dishes there, the chicken is alright, but the lamb and pork are definitely better

              i haven't tried the fried rice at lotus blue although i have been there once, i need to go back a couple more times to decide what i think about it. it was mixed when i went there. what r your favorite dishes?

              1. re: Lau

                Banana blossom mango salad I like very much, Steamed cotton cord tied pork belly steamed in Yunnan candied plum sauce is a good dish, I like the ribs wrapped in palm leaves with sticky rice, The stir fried Maya prawn with Chinese candied olives I like this but maybe just because of the olives. The Ground pork and yunnan pickled turnip fried rice is my favorite dish there.