So I finally did it. I made the trek to the two fanciest Yunnan restaurants in New York City. Now I’ve done my fair share of research on Yunnan food and I didn’t really go in expecting authenticity.
Were the Crossing Over Bridge Noodles at Yunnan Kitchen and Lotus Blue traditionally made? Not at all. Lotus Blue had rose petals in it…
Tasty? Kind of. Not memorable though. (Yunnan Kitchen more so than Lotus Blue. But the broth in Yunnan Kitchen was a little bit too reminiscent of Campbells’ chicken noodle soup)
At both Lotus Blue and Yunnan Kitchen, they pour the broth in separately table-side.
What is authentic Yunnan food then? Check out this piece I did for Serious Eats.
I’ve always been mystified at Asian fine dining. Growing up, we had big banquet halls or private rooms in Chinese restaurants where you order lots of seafood and 10+ family-style dishes for a large party of ten. Focus was not so much on decor or service. It was the food and the quantity of it.
Now, I credit Nicole for bringing me into the world of white tablecloths, great service and beautifully plated food. I remember my firsts: a beautifully atmosphered Yamashiro in Hollywood, a not-so-impressive but tasty meal at Jean-Georges Shanghai. I wasn’t converted by any of those. Overpriced and not especially memorable. But then came the epitome that was Mr. and Mrs. Bund by Paul Pairet. That was my first ever exposure to molecular gastronomy, and to this day, I affiliate Pairet’s lemon dessert (which takes three days to make) as my turning point.
As someone who is really into cheap, ethnic food — I’ve typically strayed away from the Asian fine dining. But Spice Market really shone through. I’m not an expert in Southeast Asian food and I won’t pretend to be. And although the food is probably (most definitely?) not authentic — it worked. I’ll spare the commentary. I already did a piece on their seasonal specialties, so I’ll conclude this post with a slew of food porn that I haven’t posted up already. Favorites: pork belly, hamachi, mushroom appetizer, kumquat carrot cake and butternut soup.
403 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10014
Over my last couple of years in New York City, I’ve developed this really bad habit of ordering everything via Seamless.com. I always thought it was the weather, but hell –even with this Indian summer, the thing I look forward to after classes is to plop back home in my EV walk-up and order a tasty meal on Seamless.
I suppose it’s just pure, gluttonous laziness at work here.
Now — I’ve had my fair share of horror stories. Stupid, soggy dumplings from Grand Sichuan, disgusting raw fish from Klong.
Here are some lessons:
1) Never, ever order Chinese take-out unless you’re ordering from their appetizer section (in that case, the cold noodles and hot buns from Hot Kitchen are a win) or you’re starving for cheap lunch specials. Why? Chinese food in the East Village is generally really gross. Saucy, MSG-loaded, with no ounce of creativity or consideration for the final product. Last year I went through a phase when all I did was experiment with Chinese take out. I’ve given up. Have not found anything remotely pleasing.
2) Sushi rolls and sashimi will disappoint. Kumo Sushi was always my go-to Japanese take out. Their roll combo (3 rolls for $9.95) was the best deal online for a while …. until I came back to the city in August. I’ve taken them off my list for take out staple. The sushi and sashimi are pathetically portioned and just not worth my money. If you want fresh fish…try Houston Village Farm’s Deli and Cafe’s avocado and smoked salmon sandwich (with juicy tomatoes and sprouts) on a whole wheat bread. Stay away from their coffee though.
3) You can never go wrong with breakfast. I don’t think I’ve ever had a horrible breakfast ordering situation. Then again, it’s hard to go wrong with an omelette (speaking of which, on a non-take-out related note, Roastown Coffee on St. Marks has horrible, disgusting omelets. Stay away. I only went to mooch off of their WiFi.) Atlas Cafe is always a nice breakfast place — though the portions can be a bit small.
4) Japanese bento lunch specials are the best. Just try to stay away from picking sushi or sashimi as your entree. Oh my god. Ogawa Cafe has the BEST bento lunch platter special. It’s 9 bucks for an entree of your choice (I get salmon teriyaki), a salad, shumai, california roll, and miso soup.
5) Thai + Viet + Southeast Asian food generally tends to be good. My absolute fav is Laut. For those who don’t know already, it’s a Michellin-rate establishment…that does take out. When I’m starving and in need of some serious substance, I’ll order their laksa (coconut spicy broth with egg noodles and a protein of your choice). And when I want rice, their pineapple fried rice does the trick. V-Nam Cafe also has this killer vegeterian bahn mi (with tofu!).
People who live around this area — any recs?