I’ve almost certainly eaten more Asian food (both “authentic” and “influenced”) these past four months or so than I had during the preceding four YEARS. Not that I’ve ever had anything against the cuisine, far from it. It’s just that, in a city that thrives on the new–and that has increasingly turned its attention to comfort food in all of its (other) guises–the suggestion to grab some Chinese at the local joint just came up less and less… and traveling for the stuff seemed out the question (Kin Shop and all of the Momofukus excepted).
All that changed in 2012, with an explosion of mid-priced, exciting, Asian destination restaurants that have served up some of my favorite meals of the year, including Mission Chinese Food on the Lower East Side, Pok Pok Ny on the Columbia Waterfront near Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill, and the excellent Talde in Brooklyn’s Park Slope.
Now residents of Lower East Side apartments (and anyone who frequents the area, which should be all of you, because it’s fun there) should add another go-to spot to their list of new must-try NYC Asian restaurants: Yunnan Kitchen on Clinton Street, just north of Delancey.
Opened in late spring 2012 and helmed by Chef Travis Post, who’s NOT from the Yunnan region of China, but rather the Brooklyn kitchens of Franny’s and Bklyn Larder, Yunnan Kitchen serves up a unique (to me) style of Chinese that’s lighter, brighter, more raw-vegetable-y than I expected, while still maintaining some of the intensity of flavors that I’ve become used to of late at Pok Pok and Mission Chinese.
Anyway: the Yunnan Kitchen food. I had a terrific quick meal there recently in their bright and lively room, and plan on returning as soon as possible.
The Yunnan Kitchen menu is divided into Hot, Cold, Shao Kao (basically: skewers), and Rice & Noodles, and I sampled stuff from all over, and all of it was very good. Take the Braised Beef Rolls, served room temperature, the tender meat surrounding mint leaves and cucumber slices, sprinkled with crunchy, garlicky chips, the whole thing remarkably, surprisingly… refreshing.
The plate of hot King Trumpet Mushrooms was definitely more dense–thick fungi mixed with thick pork will do that–but it was equally good and supremely satisfying. And my favorite thing on this evening had to have been the Ham Rice Cakes, spiced up with chilies, brightened with celery, ridiculously addictive and polished off in about two minutes. In a city newly crowded with interesting Asian, Yunnan Kitchen so far holds its own.
Yunnan KItchen is located on Clinton Street between Delancey and Rivington, and is open every day from 5:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. every day except Tuesday, when it’s completely closed. More info and the complete Yunnan Kitchen menu on their website.