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Lotus Blue (in lower Manhattan in New York City NY)
|110 Reade Street,|
New York City, NY 10013
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Spring Volume: 2013 Issue: 20(1) page: 15 and 16
Lotus Blue is a Yunnan-inspired lower-Manhattan new-be near the corner of West Broadway. Its menu is limited at lunch; at dinner it is larger though still small for a Chinese restaurant. It is more like a Western bistro than a Chinese eatery. On its cover it says ‘nourish;' we would say 'nifty.'
The food has influences from Burma, Laos, and Vietnam, even nearby Tibet and China's Sichuan Province. Their card says: Modern Chinese Cooking inspired by Yunnan Cuisine. We found the food modern, mellow, with many herbal influences, and often magnificent.
Ignore the multi-website hours and call so as not to be confused as we initially were. Monday to Friday lunch is from noon to three, the Happy Hour begins at 5:00 pm lasts three hours. Dinner starts at 6:00 pm and is continuous for five hours.
"Yunnan is a melting pot" say Jeffrey Li, partner-owner with Robert Zhu. As many readers know, we spent some time in Yunnan, though not enough. Most chefs in the United States were hardly there. They prepare so-called Yunnan food that does not make the mark. Some have eaten in Yunnan restaurants outside of this Chinese province, their notions and food names are weak; but not so here.
Executive chef Kian Kho is from Singapore. His dishes are Yunnanese versions with authentic names and current tastes. He joins a growing list of owners attempting to present this cuisine. There is Yun Nan Noodle Snack Shop at 75 49th Street in Brooklyn, a limiting location not worth the time it takes to get there. Yunnan Kitchen on Clinton Street in Manhattan gets lots of press but its too many little plates leave diners hungry and with thinner wallets. There was Spring World in Chicago, but it closed, and the Z & Y Garden in San Francisco has already changed ownership and most of its dishes.
With so few chances to taste the foods of this Province unless going to California's San Gabriel or Millbrae, or going to Beijing or Shanghai, notions of what the Yunnan Province provides is limited to this magazine or Lotus Blue.
The chalk-board sign outside says "Yunnan Inspired.” Inside, the Cross-Bridge Noodles are a super soup with a pair of red rose petals floating within. They and several other non-Yunnan tastes keep company with basil, mint, lemongrass, tsao guo a large and lovely nutmeg-like item, preserved plums, and other dish-delights.
Their Cross-Bridge Noodles require no hot pot adding of items ordered or cooking them ones self as we did in one of the dozens of Jiang Brothers' places in the province and elsewhere in China. We chowed down in many, many Yunnan restaurants in Kunming, the provincial capital, and elsewhere in this province and this eatery is as close as we can get to real Yunnanese food.
Did locate a minor menu mistake here, says quail eggs along with fresh pineapple pieces. We had was one quail egg with the pre-frozen chicken and pork, rice noodles mixed with a few strands of tofu, and other soup goodies.
The best dish, to date, is their Potted Beef Shank Sandwich. Comes with super thin fried potatoes and cabbage-like veggies on the side. The spiral-designed roll is yummy even though it falls apart. The meat within is magnificent, and the two accompaniments with the two sandwiches are simply super.
Mango, Green Papaya, and Cucumber Salad is dressed with honey, lime, garlic, sesame paste, mint, basil, cilantro, chili, and peanuts; it is great. The Roast Duck and Melon Salad is even better and not to be missed. Wonderful, too, are Steamed Bass with Pineapple, and the Brewed Short Ribs with Wild Mushrooms and Daikon. We need to go back often to enjoy other dishes flavored with star anise, cardamon, and dried chili.
This best away-from-Yunnan eatery beats others by a mile. Need a dessert? Try their Coconut Tapioca Pudding; it modernizes the meal. Silky with rose petal syrup, it is an indulgence worth every calorie.
One website provides a more typical Yunnan dish and recipe. It was even closer to the food we had in that province, and we suggest you try it, and the restaurant. We have included it below:
|Fried Rice with Ground Pork and Pickled Turnip|
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1/2 cup diced Yunnan pickled turnip
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
3 cups cold rice
6 slices green longhorn chili peppers (optional)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 scallion, chopped and for garnish
1. Cut the pickled turnip and red bell pepper into quarter-inch cubes and set them aside.br>
2. Heat wok or fry pan, add the oil and swirl it around the sides, then add the ground pork and stir-fry until the meat turns white. Remove it to a bowl for later use.
3. Add pickled turnip, red pepper, and rice and stir-fry one minute before adding the salt and pepper. Stir well, then push this to one side of the wok, and scramble the egg for half minute before mixing with the rice and other ingredients.
4. Plate on a serving dish, garnish with the scallion, and serve.