JP’s Food Adventures: Yunnan Kitchen is a Worthy Splurge

Photos by Cynrhia Lamb.

With the opening of Yunnan Kitchen, our neighborhood now boasts one of only two Yunnan restaurants in Manhattan. Until recently, the only Yunnan place in the city was is a tiny noodle shop in Brooklyn, where Cynthia and I have eaten.

We were struck by the similarities to Vietnamese food: the use of fresh herbs, crunchy veggies, chopped peanuts as a garnish and just a little bit of sugar added to play against the hot pepper. This is not surprising, as Yunnan Provence shares a border with Vietnam. They also use vinegar to balance out spicy, sweet and salty flavors. The result is food that’s often simple and fresh tasting, yet nuanced.

I had some trepidation about Yunnan Kitchen — a “small plates” joint on Clinton Street.  Like many New Yorkers, I consider the ability to get delicious Chinese food for cheap practically a God-given right. If I must sacrifice some of the bourgeois niceties in my dining out experience to that end, so be it. I’d rather eat good food in a dive than pay top dollar for okay food in a place with great service and décor.

New York’s First Full Scale Restaurant Featuring Yunnan Cuisine Planned on Clinton Street

Coming soon to 79 Clinton St.: Yunnan Kitchen.

Last week we posted a brief item about Yunnan Kitchen, a new restaurant coming to 79 Clinton St. A few days ago, we met Erika Chou, the owner, to discuss plans for the regional Chinese spot in the former home of the Lucky variety store.

There’s a lot of work to be done in the space. A kitchen must be added and the storefront will be opened up to take full advantage of the street-side exposure. So on a beautiful fall morning, we sat on a bench outside Atlas Cafe and chatted.

Falai Closes; “Changed Neighborhood” Cited

Image via Eater.

For a few months now, there’s been speculation about what’s happening at Falai, the high-end Italian restaurant at 68 Clinton Street. This morning Grub Street noticed an ominous message on Falai’s web site, indicating that the business was “temporarily closed due to technical difficulties.”

Now there’s more information from Florence Fabricant of the New York Times. A short time ago, Iacopo Falai told her the 7-year old restaurant has closed for good. “I want to concentrate on the cafe on Lafayette and be in the kitchen more, I want to cook,” Mr. Falai told Flo-Fab. “The Lower East Side neighborhood has changed, I think it might be less fashionable, I don’t see as many customers coming from the Upper East Side,” he added.

The Times was told Falai Panetteria at 79 Clinton Street will remain open. Online real estate listings, however, suggest changes may be in store at this location, as well. The 600 square foot space is being offered for lease ($6300/month plus key money).  There have been suggestions that Falai Panetteria would move into a larger space in the same building (the former home of the Lucky variety store that closed last year).


Not So Lucky on Clinton Street

If you walked past Lucky, the variety shop at 79 Clinton Street, in the last day or so you know the longtime Lower East Side store is closing. We have a call into the owner to find out why they’ve decided to go out of business. While gentrification has taken hold on Clinton between Houston and Rivington, this one block (from Rivington to Delancey) has so far defied the winds of change.  There’s a lot of concern about the sustainability of stores like Lucky, which serve low income and middle income shoppers. This commercial strip is part of the proposed expansion of the LES Business Improvement District.

UPDATE: A manager  told us the store is closing down because the building’s owner raised the rent. He said Lucky will shut its doors for good in about a week. They are not moving to a new location.

Also Lo-Down reader Ed Rudyk noticed this interesting tidbit about 79 Clinton’s past in Ephemeral New York:

250-pound Fredericka “Marm” Mandelbaum, who arrived in Manhattan from Prussia in 1849, became one of the city’s most infamous thieves, a kind of mother hen to organized crime in post–Civil War New York. After moving to the U.S., Marm and her husband opened a dry goods store at 79 Clinton Street, which quickly became a front for her various illegal activities. Marm fenced stolen goods, financed gangs, assisted con men and blackmailers, and even taught pickpocketing to kids on Grand Street.