With spicy soups and meatballs, a different kind of Chinese restaurant opens in Metairie | Where NOLA Eats

On opening day at her new restaurant, Yan Yu greeted her first customers by switching between English, Cantonese and her own native tongue, Mandarin.

“I’ve always wanted to be able to show people my food that way we make it back home,” she said.

YuYan Kitchen is where she can now start to do that.






Yan Yu opened her first restaurant, YuYan Kitchen, to showcase the flavors of her native Mandarin cuisine. On opening day, she poses by flowers and a Buddhist altar in the dining room. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate).


This new Chinese restaurant officially opened last week in Fat City, in the property that had for three decades been home to Korea House.

It is a showcase for the Mandarin-style of cooking, one of the distinct cuisines found across the different regions of China.






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Steam buns, or bao, are filled with spiced sausage at YuYan Kitchen, a Metairie restaurant serving traditional Mandarin cuisine. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate).


The steam buns, or bao, are pillowy puffs of soft dough, with a subtly sticky texture and gentle chew enclosing a dollop of ginger scented sausage.

The spicy beef soup is built around hunks of meat slow cooked until they break apart easily under the chopsticks, for a rich flavor and texture similar to the local debris style of roast beef. This shares a bowl with strands of dark, pleasantly bitter Chinese broccoli, egg noodles and a thin, heady broth with a sour tang and a sharp flicker of chili heat.






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Spicy beef soup is part of the menu at YuYan Kitchen, a Metairie restaurant serving traditional Mandarin cuisine. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate).


The dragon eye meatballs are one of the particular specialties of YuYan Kitchen. These arrive two to a plate with rice and broccoli. They’re about the size of a baseball, and looking very much like the meatballs from an Italian kitchen, without the red gravy. Slice through, and a whole boiled egg is revealed inside, the yolk giving the dragon eye appearance. The blend of pork and beef packed around it is smooth and moist with a darkly salty juice.






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Dragon eye meatballs are formed around whole eggs and served with rice at YuYan Kitchen, a Metairie restaurant serving traditional Mandarin cuisine. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate).


Yu laughs that it’s a little like a Chinese version of a Scotch egg, the pub snack that wraps hard boiled eggs in sausage before dunking it all in a fryer.

She’s been having fun in the early going for the restaurant, showing newcomers the cornerstones of her home cuisine.

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A cat statue waves hello at YuYan Kitchen, a Metairie restaurant serving traditional Mandarin cuisine. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate).


The restaurant name is based on Yu’s own name, and the practice in China of addressing people by their family name, then given name.

Yu is a native of Tianjin, a city near Beijing in northern China. 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.

Yu is developing YuYan Kitchen in phases, beginning with a short menu. She plans to add more specialties.

“We’ll focus on a few dishes first to give people a taste and then expand it,” Yu said.






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Flowers decorate the Buddhist altar at YuYan Kitchen, a Metairie restaurant serving traditional Mandarin cuisine. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate).


Eventually, that could include hot pots to cook at the table, using the grills already built into the tables, a staple fixture of the cook-your-own barbecue that Korea House once served here.

YuYan Kitchen

3547 18th St., Metairie (504) 888-0654

Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.

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