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Youyun: Not All It Seems

Youyun Tries Its Hands at Fine Dining

Yunnan restaurants abound in the hutons from Gulou to Dongzhimen, where many an expat has her first bowl of “over the bridge noodles” or spiced, roasted fish. A few salads and stir-fries, a couple of cold beers, and we called it good. Youyun, tucked snugly away south of Beixinqiao station, is not like the others.

Pride of place goes to two rooftop patios and three courtyard dining rooms available for private parties. On our visit, a few immaculately dressed customers sipped wine quietly in one of the private rooms.

There is no beer on the menu (which otherwise features a lackluster wine list), though upon request staff brought out large cans of Oettinger Hefeweissbier (¥30). The house-made rice wine (¥76/carafe) is thick and purple, with little sign of fermentation.

Menu discussion is a problem for customers who balk at curated set menus (¥200-400/person). The chef’s selection (¥258) featured shellfish and other items some among our table did not want. We gave up using the à la carte menu, because no staff would tell us which items were available, only that every item we wanted was unavailable. Ultimately, we had to let the kitchen curate our meal, which they did without asking if there were other items we didn’t eat.

We worried, as we waited sipping bad beer and purple juice in our stylishly uncomfortable chairs, that the restaurant might be more an aesthetic experience of good life than good food. Cold dishes first flowed from the kitchen, all on stunning white ceramic, ready for selfies but all middling in flavor, mostly bland. “Steaks with black truffle” appeared as a single, ragged cut of short-rib, over-sauced and badly cooked, with not a hint of truffle flavor. A stir-fry of wasps and corn was quite a conversation-starter, but oddly plain, its flavor and texture mostly just corn and far too much low-quality vegetable oil. Even the best dish, a stir-fry of asparagus and wild mushrooms, had this problem of greasy mouth-feel. We flavor-conscious Yunnan-lovers will just have to take our old cravings back to Aimo Town, Yun Er Small Town, or Dali Renjia.

Find it: 63 Babaokeng Hutong, 四合有雲精品云南菜, Tel: 136-8127-3691

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