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.
Chou fell in love with the cooking from the bountiful Yunnan province, in the southwestern section of the country, during visits to China. She says main hallmarks of the cuisine are aromatic flavors, fresh ingredients and wild herbs. Typical dishes include: jasmine stir-fry with egg and tea-smoked duck. There’s apparently only one restaurant in New York focused on Yunnan cooking, a small noodle shop in Brooklyn.
Chou says she chose to open her first restaurant on the Lower East Side because the neighborhood is “full of passionate people and creativity.” There seems to be a high concentration of “personal projects” on the LES, she observed. Chou is undeterred by recent restaurant failures on Clinton Street, including that of Falai, the high-end Italian trattoria that closed after seven years in business.
Chou has lived in New York for about eight years. She worked at The Standard Grill. On Monday, she’ll go before Community Board 3’s SLA Committee, in search of a wine and beer license. Last Friday, she collected about 50 signatures from residents to bolster her application. Chou is planning on dinner service when she first opens (expected sometime in the first three months of next year). It’s possible lunch will be added later, if there’s enough demand. There will be 18 tables and a 23-foot bar.
Chou says she’s excited about creating a place with interesting food and “great energy” in a neighborhood in which people like to experience new things.