SADLY, YUNNAN KITCHEN IS NOW CLOSED.
Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City
A tofu salad doesn’t sound like a must-order at any restaurant. But there was something about the word “ribbon” that was intriguing or maybe it was the cilantro, chiles, and mint offered as an accompaniment. For whatever reason, we decided to order this unlikely must-have and were surprised to discover it was the best dish of the night.
And that was saying quite a lot considering all the food at Yunnan Kitchen was bright, lively, and full of flavor. This is really only the second restaurant in Manhattan serving food from the Yunnan region in southwest China. I’ve tried the sweet, spicy, and woodsy flavors before at Lotus Blue (the other one in the major borough) and at the excellent (but unfussy) Yun Nan Flavor Shack in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. But Yunnan Kitchen is a hip slightly more refined restaurant putting interesting local spins on rustic Chinese food that most of us have never tried.
From the stellar lamb meatballs to the unusual ham rice cakes, the small plates all worked and were pleasantly affordable. The cold tofu ribbon salad featured thin shreds of al dente tofu cooked and sliced in such a way that one might have mistaken them for noodles. It had a wonderful texture and lots of balanced flavors thanks to a dressing of spicy chilies, sweet tangy red onions, and coolingly fresh mint and cilantro.
If I was ever afraid of tofu (I never was), this would assuage any doubts in my mind. Yunnan Kitchen offers big, bold flavors on a clean light canvas and somehow makes the words tofu and salad totally mouthwatering.
|79 Clinton Street (between Rivington and Delancey Street),
Lower East Side