An authentic Chinese menu make Yipin China a great addition to Islington's restaurant scene
“Yipin China, a Hunanese restaurant situated at the heart of Islington, is the most recent and authentic exponent of this fine regional Chinese cuisine. The Master Chef, Mr Mingyuan Geng, has extensive experience of cooking Hunanese cuisine for dignitaries in his native Hunan.”
I’ve lived in Islington for 6 months now and have walked past Yipin China a few times on my way to and from Angel. I read a review a couple of months raving about it so Antonia and I braved the snow and went for midweek dinner out. It doesn’t look much from the outside and the inside isn’t particularly inspiring either with it’s plain white walls with some red sections and undressed tables. Not a great first impression.
We were seated by the friendly staff and were given some pickled radish in chilli oil and a plate of salted peanuts to snack on while we looked through the menu, which is big enough and heavy enough to knock someone out with. The menu is a pretty awkward size to look through but it’s quite well designed with the food split in various regional groups eg. Hunanese, Sichuan and Cantonese. It’s a really interesting menu with not many ‘go to’ dishes, which makes a nice change. The menu is full of photos, which is usually a bad sign but these were clearly professionally shot and are actually quite necessary given the types of dishes on the menu. There’s a fair amount of offal on the menu, which won’t be appealing to a lot of people, so having these photos to show the dishes off helps push you in to giving them a try.
We opted for a quarter Crispy Aromatic Duck at £7.90, with a half costing £15.00 or £26.00 for the whole bird. they also offer a traditional Peking duck with a half coming in at £14.80. We ordered two main courses with a veg side and some plain rice, the waiter recommended the Sliced Sea Bass in a Soup of Pickled Mustard, consisting of fresh sea bass, Sichuan preserved vegetables and wild yellow chillies at £12.90, the Dry-wok Chicken (boneless), which is the house special with chicken, fresh green and red chillies and homemade sauce at £13.80 and some Dry-fried Green Beans, fresh runner beans, minced pork and Sichuan bean sprouts for £7.50.
The Duck was as good as any crispy Duck I’ve had and their homemade Hoisin sauce was delicious. The portion size for the mains was insane! Especially the soup came in a dish that took up most of the table, that’s not a spoon in the photo below, it’s a ladle. No really, it is! I have no idea how many fish were in it and neither did the waiter but we all agreed it was ‘a lot of fish’. The broth was light enough that you could still taste the fish and the preserved veg added an extra pickled element to some mouthfuls. This could easily feed four as a main dish. Next came the green beans, which had a really nice savoury flavour thanks to the minced pork (you can ask for a vegetarian version if you prefer). Again, this was a large portion, but I guess for £7.50 it’s going to be bigger than a side. The dry wok chicken came as huge portion as well on a gas burner so it kept sizzling for a few minutes as you started to tuck in. I wouldn’t say this dish had any outstanding flavours but it was definitely tasty and had a good amount of chilli in it.
We tried our best to finish our meal but our efforts were in vain. I can only think of one other time in my life when I’ve had to take the rest of the meal home, which was in Brighton when my Mum went overboard (as usual) in a Chinese restaurant in Brighton and ordered pretty much everything on the menu.
Looks can be deceiving and this place could do with a re-design of it’s interior but the menu is intriguing and has a lot of dishes I’ve never tried, let alone heard of. It’s hard to find this kind of authentic Chinese cooking in London and I’m very happy that Yipin China is within walking distance. Before 5pm they have a special menu offering a range of dishes with rice for just £5.50. I’m sure there are some incredible dishes on the menu. I’m keen to try the the Spiced Snails, Pig’s Liver with Pak Choy and Chairman Mao’s Red-Braised Pork.
Although we ended up spending £30 each you don’t need to order anywhere near as much food as we did so it’s probably more like £20 a head. I’d recommend coming with a decent size of group so that you can share everything rather than take the leftover home. Also, if you pay in cash you’ll save yourself 10%.
I’ll be back, soon.