At the beginning of the year, Manhattan had no restaurants specializing in the spicy, herbal, Southeast Asian–leaning cuisine of China's Yunnan Province. Now, all of a sudden, it has two. Three months after the arrival of Lotus Blue, a hound-recommended newcomer in Tribeca, Yunnan Kitchen has opened on the Lower East Side. Riverman500 finds the food "fresh, delicious, and expertly prepared with lots of assertive flavors and unexpected seasonings ... more authentically Asian than Lotus Blue while in step with the modern profiles of Momofuku Ssam Bar and Wong."
For Riverman and Simon, early favorites on the menu of mostly small plates include bean-curd ribbon salad with mint, cilantro, and chiles; charred eggplant with sawtooth herb, crushed peanut, and chiles; king trumpet mushrooms with ham and sawtooth herb; fried potato balls with Yunnan spices and soy-vinegar sauce; and shredded chicken with tamarind and crispy taro. One winner from the lineup of shao kao, or grilled skewered dishes, is lamb meatballs (Simon found the skewered chicken bland). For a full meal, Riverman recommends three or four small plates per person.
sgordon, for one, is not sold on Yunnan Kitchen. He found the food "bland, timid, underseasoned, monotextural." And it can be pricey, as the small plates pile up. "Is it the rootsy Yunnan place of my dreams? No," Simon writes. "There's little of the sour herby dishes that I used to enjoy in China. 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."
Yunnan Kitchen [Lower East Side]
79 Clinton Street (between Delancey and Rivington streets), Manhattan