Monday, September 3, 2012


Chef Post and owner Erika Chou (c/o New York Times)
Travis Post, the chef at Yunnan Kitchen, is doing what I've wanted someone to do for a long time: Chinese-esque food (sometimes strictly authentic, sometimes with a little hocus-pocus) with market produce, a seasonal menu, and some new approaches.  Bingo.  We ordered a ton of food here, so I think I got a really good feel for what this place is trying to do, but also the menu is big enough that I could (and would) happily return to discover other and different.

The room is boxy, sparse but boisterous.  We sat near the open-ish kitchen on the north side of the dining room, but you can't really see what's going on back there- only the dishes as they arrive.  First thing to hit the table was a marvelous charred eggplant, silky with soy underneath a hefty dose of crunchy peanuts and a chiffonade of sawtooth herb- a garnish I wish I'd paid better attention to.  Sawtooth is also commonly known as culantro, deemed a heartier cilantro, and I keep on hearing about it and wanting to try,

 but not knowing they were one in the same, I didn't isolate it for flavor detection.  (Another reason to go back.)  Cilantro was listed in the Tofu Ribbon Salad, but I think there was some culantro in there as well (I think you can see in the picture).  Regardless, it's a heaping tangle of wide, fettuccine-esque "noodles" of tofu skin, temperature-cool but heated up with chilies and red onion.  No one would ever deem this tofu bland.

Little balls of mashed potatoes were fried to an ethereal crispness, creamy smooth inside but scorching with the heat of the fryer: lay off of these for a few moments while you tackle another dish, or souse them throughly in their deeply flavorful herb-flecked soy vinegar sauce.  I couldn't wait to try the Scrambled Egg with Jasmine flower and tomatoes (I love eating flowers).  The jasmine buds had a distinct artichoke flavor and a pleasant pop when you bit into them, but the overall scramble was a little bland... it wanted for some of the Fried Potato Balls dipping sauce, or even just some plain salt.  The next dish needed nothing
 but the absence of anyone interfering with me eating it: King Trumpet mushrooms sliced into sturdy slabs and enlivened with fiery green chilies.  The menu listed ham in this, but unless it was part of the stock in which they were sauteed, I didn't detect any porcine morsels.  There was more Sawtooth- missed again.

Onto heartier comestibles, a quartet of Crispy Whole Shrimp sported incendiary crisp shells, relieved of them to reveal their immaculate white bodies, best consumed with broken shards of the crisp fried lime leaf hovering atop.  While not usually a lamb fan, the Shao Kao (skewered)
 meatballs were magnificent.  Profoundly meaty orbs that were dense yet loose, powdered with sumac (I think) and a zesty glaze that made them one of my favorite dishes of the

evening. Finally,  a more traditional looking stir-fry of lemongrass chicken appeared, tossed with copious amounts of spring onion and Chinese celery.  But just when you thought'd you gotten a more straightforward dish, a hunk of fried bun was chopsticked into a bite,
adding a buttery crouton that tasted decidedly un-Chinese but all the more delicious for it.  In fact, without these bready hunks the mix would have been a little rough- they sopped up the fragrant broth and added a certain decadence.

And these cubes of bun will have to suffice as dessert, too, because nothing but two sort of stale tasting almond squares that come with your bill are on offer as dessert.  You can, however, do what we did: just steps up the block is WD-50, and if the sampling of desserts we happened upon there are any indication of the changes currently under going here, my next venture down to Clinton Street will most definitely be a visit to Wylie's.

79 Clinton street
212 253 2527

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