The menu at Erika Chou’s Clinton Street restaurant is expanding with the arrival of a talented young pastry chef.
Fans of Yunnan Kitchen may remember the restaurant’s early days, when each meal ended with a small bite of something sweet–mini housemade coconut cookies, perhaps, or a shot-glass-sized serving of watermelon. Then, for a while, it was just fortune cookies. Enter Jillian Duran, who traded in her brand-new gig at the much-hyped Soho spot Chalk Point Kitchen to cook and bake at Chou’s three-year-old spot specializing in the cuisine of Southwest China.
Over the holiday weekend, Duran crafted a chocolate cremeux, a wedge of dense, fudgy custard. She paired it with Yunnan Coffee spongecake and dressed it with a sheet of transparent peppermint gelee, garnished with flower petals and mint leaves. This week, she’s experimenting with soy-based custards, with an eye on developing desserts that complement Chef Doron Wong’s dinner offerings, which she’s also helping to cook.
Duran had been helping out occasionally at Yunnan Kitchen over the winter, because she and Chou are friends and she was between jobs waiting for Chalk Point Kitchen to open. That Broome Street eatery is a new venture from Sons of Essex creator Matt Levine. Prior to that, she worked at a well-respected sustainable seafood restaurant in the Hamptons called Southfork Kitchen under chef Joe Isidori, who is now at Chalk Point as well.