Yunnan Kitchen: decently tasty but also pretentious

Yunnan Kitchen
79 Clinton St
(between Rivington St & Delancey St)
New York, NY 10002

I’m not completely against non-traditional Chinese food. I love Baohaus, especially their fried chicken bao and fried fish coffin bao, which are both not traditional Chinese dishes. I also love Mission Chinese, a hip little modern Chinese place that even has a kale salad. That has got to be the least Chinese thing ever. But I still love it. ‘Cause they do it right. It’s hip in the right ways. They have crispy pig ears (totally Chinese) and use Old Bay seasoning (totally not Chinese). Danny Bowien experiments with all kinds of Eastern and Western flavors and brings them together in exciting, unpretentious ways.

Yunnan Kitchen, on the other hand, pretends to be traditional but also wants to be hip and pretentious. The space is occupied by mostly non-Asians (no offense) and the menu encourages sharing “delicious small plates.” Nuh uh. Chinese people don’t share small plates. We share big plates. Pet peeve of mine. Pictured above is the Cold Noodles ($12) with ground pork, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, and peanuts. This is a pretty classic dish – spicy, sweet, and nutty – but $12 is ridiculous for a tiny bowl of limp noodles. Check out Xi’an for some serious noodle damage.

We also shared the Beef Tartare ($13) with chili oil, green cabbage, and rice cracker. I liked the rice cracker and green cabbage combo but also felt like the portions were way too small for a $13 dish. The beef was lightly flavored. Nothing too memorable.

These Stir Fried Mushrooms ($11) with sawtooth herb, ham, and peppers was probably my favorite dish from the night. There were a number of different kinds of mushrooms sautéed with a smoked ham and spicy green peppers (green long horns?). My only suggestion to Yunnan Kitchen is to serve it on a sizzling cast iron plate. It smells so good, it deserves to come out crackling. 

Chinese Sausage Fried Rice ($14) with seasonal mushroom and Chinese greens was also very good. A bit expensive for fried rice but the flavors were great. I love their mushrooms. Yunnan province happens to known for mushrooms so props to the restaurant for getting this right.

This “special” of the night, which the waitress described as some fancy “pork shoulder dish with veggies-I-couldn’t-pronounce.” Sounded really tasty. It was pretty tasty. But when the dish came out, we all felt cheated. It’s just classic Twice Cooked Pork (回锅肉). Why the formalities and pretentious language? Say it as it should be. The taste was pretty good, spicy and sweet as it should be, but the meat was dry and there was only about three pieces. Get some serious Twice Cooked Pork from my kitchen (har har) or from Hot Kitchen, a new-ish Sichuan place in East Village that I need to blog about ASAP.

We were still hungry (obviously) so ordered the Ham Rice Cakes ($13) with chilies, tomato, and Chinese celery. The rice cakes were oddly very sour. The whole thing just tasted odd. We finished the bowl of rice cakes, with each bite contemplating why the dish tasted so strange.

Ah, probably my second favorite dish of the night. These shao kao (Chinese bbq) Marinated Pork ($7) were delicious. There chilies gave off a dry kind of heat, which tasted amazing with the juicy fatty pieces of pork. Delicious.

Our check came with cubes of watermelon with mint dressing. We each got one. How pretentious. When Chinese restaurants serve complimentary fruit platters (traditionally, this is very common), they typically chop up at least half a watermelon up in fat slices and serve them on glass plates. These baby cubes were cute, but I couldn’t help but find them funny. I did enjoy the mint dressing. Went surprisingly well with the watermelon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *