Sunday, 26 February 2012

Restaurant Review: Yipin

Any regular readers of the blog will probably have noticed the slew of Sichuanese restaurants that I have reviewed around London and my love of Chinese food in general.  Well then, imagine my excitement when walking home along Liverpool Road I wandered past Yipin.  It doesn't look like much from the outside, but on looking at the menu in the window I was happy to find Sichuan classics like pock marked old woman's bean-curd, boiled fish slices and hot and numbing beef.  On closer investigation of the menu online, however, I found that though the Sichuanese is reputedly good, Yipin actually specialises in Hunanese food, a cuisine still heavy on the chilli, but without the numbing peppers and a bit more fond of a dash of sugar.

When we arrived at nine the restaurant was busy, but we were still seated straight away without a reservation.  It's fairly nondescript inside, in a functional sterile way, though some of the walls are painted a slightly worrying shade of magenta. The menu on the other hand is a lovely site to behold, providing a fairly comprehensive series of images for those unfamiliar with dishes helpfully split into Hunanese, Sichuanese and Cantonese sections.

We started off with preserved eggs with peppers and man and wife offal slices.  Both came in a slick of chilli oil that was spicy, but not as hot in some of the aforementioned places.  The preserved eggs were subtle with a lovely gelationous texture, that was complemented well by the soft sweet peppers. The offal slices cooked in a delicious stock had a deep savoury flavour.  Both were excellent. 

After this the first main arrived.  Dry wok duck was tasty enough, but not particularly interesting and was my least favourite dish, though the meat was well cooked and tender there wasn't an enormous amount of character to it.  This is not a charge that could be levelled against Chairman Mao's red braised pork, a classic Hunanese dish of slow cooked belly pork, the fat having broken down but not rendered, encasing the soft meat with a lovely jelly like texture.  The sweet sauce was also delicious and rich with the flavours of star anise.  Also excellent was the silken tofu with duck egg-yolk sauce.  The soft tofu was coated in the rich duck yolk which was cooked together with a a rich duck stock.  The whole dish was very subtle but still packed a great deal of flavour, very good indeed.  My personal favourite dish was the hand torn cabbage stir fried with chilli and pork.  The prok was crispy and had an smoky bacony flavour, the cabbage was well cooked and again slick with chilli oil.

In all the meal for three came to £73 with beers.  This is probably the kind of place you should bring friends as sharing a number of different dishes gives you the opportunity to play with an array of different textures and flavours.  Yipin is highly recommended and a welcome addition to London's ever-improving Chinese dining scene.  The Hunanese food is a real treat given places like Gourmet San, Bar Red, Silk Road and Sichuan Folk are spoiling us all on the Sichuanese front.

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