In the ongoing shakeup of the local restaurant scene, the area’s oldest Korean restaurant has closed and a new restaurant focused on the flavors of northern China will soon take its place.
Korea House had been a fixture in Fat City for 35 years, just around the corner from Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, with a highly traditional menu. It closed permanently earlier this year.
Now, the new restaurant YuYan Kitchen is preparing to open in the weeks ahead, with a menu of noodle dishes, soups and dumplings.
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Chef and co-owner Yan Yu explained that the restaurant name is based on her name, and the practice in China of addressing people by their family name first, then their given name.
She is a native of Tianjin, a city near Beijing, and she is excited to introduce more people to the Mandarin flavors of her family heritage.
“There are so many different kinds of Chinese cuisine,” she said. “Cantonese is very common here. But where I’m from, we speak a different language, and we eat a different food.”
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The opening menu for YuYan Kitchen is short, with dishes like spicy beef noodles, soy sauce pork ribs and meatball soup. Another specialty are dragon eye meatballs, made by forming meatballs around boiled eggs; the meatballs are sliced to reveal the eye-like yolk within. Dumplings, steamed buns, fried rice and scallion pancakes are also on the opening menu.
“We’ll focus on a few dishes first to give people a taste and then expand the menu,” Yu said.
Eventually, that could include hot pots to cook at the table, using the grills already built into the tables here for the cook-your-own barbecue that Korea House once served.
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Korea House was founded in 1986 by In Sook Kang Kim, a native of Seoul. She died in 2017 at age 86, and her daughter Kim Ragusa had run the restaurant for many years. The family could not be reached for comment, but Yu said she was told the previous owners decided to retire in 2020.
This is the first restaurant for Yu and her husband Javier Serrano, who grew up in Mid-City and traces his family roots to Honduras. The two met in China while Serrano was on an assignment for the energy company where he works. Now that their two boys have grown a little older, the couple decided to start a business.
“We think it’s actually a good time now,” Serrano said. “People are coming back out from the pandemic, new places are opening.”
3547 18th St., Metairie
Projected opening: August 2021
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