Introducing: Yunnansploitation. You heard it here first. Take peasant food from Yunnan Province, elevate with tropical coulis de jour, pair with #c l e a n e a t i n g aesthetic and 58RMB pourovers and boom – it’s Chinese gastronomy’s latest hit from the provinces.
Gentrification of Mainland provincial cuisine is, of course, nothing new (is it, Sichuan?), but the province renowned for its dry-aged ham, saganaki
-esque cheese, specialty mountain coffee and glamping is readymade for a trendier iteration, and with its tastefully spacious plot in the air-purified Parkview Green
mall, Underclouds is the perfect stage.
We begin with a pile – a knoll, really – of 'yam mud with passion fruit juice and plum grain', which we can read as mashed potato lathered in a passion fruit reduction, and which we can say tastes precisely how you might imagine passion fruit mashed potato would.
Next comes a curious serving of 'lanterns with mango juice' – the 'lanterns' are fries made of milk (covered in mango juice) – and a braised beef in papaya sauce. Bold. But despite jumping every known shark in the four oceans, the tropical zest of each sauce cuts right through the weight of the starch, milk and beef, conjuring in every case the playful-yet-precise flavour profiles upon which Underclouds has quickly made its name.
The menu’s more down-to- earth refrains, the fried Yunnan ham with wrinkled pepper, for example, are revelatory. But even in their most challenging moments, most of these dishes are expertly balanced, upbeat takes on Yunnan classics.
Like the province itself, the meal is a vibrant one – at times psychotically so – but the humour in these recipes is infectious and we leave in high spirits, not least because of the exceptional third-wave joe and homemade chocolate. Some of the tastiest gentrification in Chaoyang.
Dinner for two with a couple of drinks: 700RMB.