Be it Little Yunnan, In and Out, or Middle 8, we Beijingers have more than a few solid options for Yunnan food, which made us wonder how the newly opened branch of Yunnan chain Yunhaiyao (云海肴 云南菜) in Chaoyangmen's U-Town Mall fares.
The barbecued fish was a winner although a little lean
Admittedly, we had never tried Yunhaiyao before, despite it having numerous branches across Beijing and China, and while it was quickly evident that Yunhaiyao wouldn't come close to outpacing our aforementioned go-tos, it proved better than most of U-Town's nondescript restaurants (here’s looking at you, Green Tea Restaurant and Wan).
Winning dishes included Yunhaiyao's iteration of barbecued tilapia (傣味香茅草考罗非鱼 dǎi wèixiāng máocǎo kǎo luó fēi yú, RMB 68), a plateful big enough to satisfy two patrons and featuring a suitably crisp exterior that snuggly hems the luscious white meat. It was a little leaner than we would've liked (more of that fluffy white stuff, please!), and it was by no means as out-of-the-water fresh as others we've tried at higher-end Yunnan restaurants but it certainly did the trick.
What would a trip to a Yunnanese restaurant be without pineapple rice?
And, of course, what would a trip to a Yunnanese restaurant be without a heaping of pineapple rice? Again, this restaurant's take on that time-honored dish (priced at RMB 48) was nothing to write home about, but its sticky sweetness and the quality presentation (falling just short of Instagram worthiness) was a firm success. The bowl of soupy Yunnan over the bridge rice noodles (云南过桥米线 yúnnánguò qiáo mǐxiàn, RMB 48) comes in a bowl big enough for three customers, or one starving patron. Though not much to look at and not particularly flavorful, its cloudy and soothing hot broth, as well as its abundance of veggies and springy noodles, amounted to a more than satisfying countermeasure to this winter's ongoing cold weather.
The rice noodles proved much better than how they look
Yunhaiyao's atmosphere, meanwhile, was light, bright and colorful, once again putting it well over the dingy dungeon vibe of neighboring Green Tea, but behind the exotic, borderline immersive ambiance of Beijing's more well-known and homestyle Yunnan joints.
The atmosphere is far better than your average mall restaurant
In short: we'd recommend stopping by Yunhaiyao if you're in U-Town and feeling peckish for average but reliable regional eats. However, if it's Beijing's best Yunnanese offerings you're after, this mall joint isn't going to satiate your cravings for the tropical south.
Yunhaiyao (云海肴 云南菜) (U-Town branch)
Daily 9am-9pm. 5/F, 501, U-Town Shopping Mall, 2 Sanfeng Beilu, Chaoyang District (8579 4269)
Photos: Kyle Mullin
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