My sister booked a family dinner at one of Chengdu’s most famous restaurants, Yu’s Family Kitchen. We saw this whilst watching BBC’s great series on Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure (Episode 2). It’s most famous for attempting to bring innovative and creative techniques and fusing them with traditional Chinese cooking methods and ingredients.
The restaurant itself is nondescript, with a simple doorway located on a busy market street leading to a small inner courtyard surrounded by the dining rooms. Although we didn’t get to see other rooms, it felt like Yu’s Family Kitchen was more appropriately named, Yu’s Family Home with each dining group sharing part of their living quarters. As you can see we had an entire lounge room to relax in.
On entering our dining/living room, the golden-clothed dining table already came prepared with 16 assorted dishes all very well presented and proper. Each small dish providing some insight into the flavour roadmap ahead.
I can’t remember all of the dishes in so much detail, but we had green beans with seasame oil and garlic, “knots” of cucumber soaked with numbing sichuan peppers.
Other small plates held century quail’s egg, fresh peppers, tofu and an assortment of mushrooms, vegetables all with different ingredients.
They also served these small dishes with a fiery chilli chicken (cold) that would both numb your mouth and set it on fire at the same time in a fashion very typical for this region of China. We didn’t finish this dish as it was pretty spicy for me and the rest of the family doesn’t like spicy food as much as I do.
We also had a smoke, shredded pigeon dish delicately piled up. It didn’t have a strong game-flavour that I expected but was still pretty tasty.
A very playful dish then arrived, and one that we had seen on the BBC show before. A beautiful “paintbrush” set arrived with each “brush” basically being a pastry shell containing dried pork floss and a home made tomato sauce for the “paint”. A tasty combination made even more delightful by its presentation and playfulness.
The painting set with three small dishes. The first was a gold foil with (Chinese) black truffle.
As well as fresh, young ginseng with icing sugar. I was expecting extremely wood strands for this dish but was surprisingly soft, fresh and very tasty.
The third accompaniment was a blackened garlic. Sweet, sticky and full of flavour.
A new dish arrived after we finished that set, this time being a local river fish in a very delicious creamy broth. The fish was perfectly cooked – flaky, moist and surprisingly meaty. It reminded me a piece of monkfish but even more delicate.
The seafood theme continued with an oyster served atop rice-flour cubes in a spicy chili sauce. Nice presentation again but I’m not a huge oyster fan.
It arrived with a panko-crumbed deep fried prawn with some green chilli flakes. I love prawn so and fried prawns are always a winner. The chilli flakes provided a nice balance to the natural sweetness of the prawn flesh.
Our next dish was alligator in a fish stock. I’d eaten crocodile back in Australia and it reminded me of the same sort of flesh, much like a very soft squid dish. The stock was especially wholesome and full of flavour.
A small saucer of pumpkin soup arrived neat. Super warm, super sweet and just the right small serving to refresh the palette for the next set of dishes.
Smoked fish came next on the menu. It sat atop a series of small pastry knots, slightly sweet and giving that contrast to the heavy smokiness of the fish.
Two dishes arrived in unison at the next time. Firstly, (on the bottom) was a savoury custard dish, very typical of Chinese cuisine. Imagine a savoury steamed egg custard but filled with pork instead of a sweet caramel. The top dish (black) was fresh bamboo flavoured with a fiery chilli kick. I liked moving between the two dishes – one for the spicy and then a soothing cooling sensation of creamy custard.
I don’t eat Sichuan food that often, but of the many dishes, I’m very familiar with this one of a whole pan full of oil peppered with plenty of spicy, herbs and flavour and used to slow-poach fish. It sounds a bit strange, far from healthy but it’s a strange combination that gives a wonderful aroma and depth of flavour.
Here they provided us individual pots with the small bits of fish. Absolutely devine and I was pining for more of this dish.
We were then presented with a couple of small hot pot duck dumplings covered with a thick, sticky and salty sauce. Both dumplings quite generous with their fillings and very flavoursome.
Beijing has its roasted duck. In this part of the country, they prefer tea-smoked duck served cold. Here we had it with tiny little pancakes, a hoisin sauce and cucumbers. A very beautiful presentation and really far too much duck for all of us (considering the number of dishes we were eating).
Finishing our round of main courses was this fiery hotpot noodle soup dish.
Chinese don’t really do dessert very well. This is probably a good thing considering all of the food that we just consumed. I can’t actually remember what this dish was. Sorry but my note-taking wasn’t really happening that night.
This was a fresh poached chestnut balls.
And to finish off, some fresh apples that you see in the markets all over the place. Strangely dry but quite sweet.
Yu’s Family Kitchen is by no-means cheap by Chinese standards. However for the quality of the food and the experience that lasted many hours, it was definitely worth doing on a special trip. Drinks are additional, and unlike many other Chinese restaurants a 10% service charge is added to the final bill.
Name: Yu’s Family Kitchen
Found at: No. 43 Zhai Xiang Zi, Xia Tong Ren Road, Chengdu
Website: None that I could find