Chinese tasting menu spot Yingtao opens on Tuesday at 805 Ninth Avenue, between 53rd and 54th streets, in Hell’s Kitchen. First-time restaurateur Bolun Yao, who lived in San Francisco, New Zealand, and China, pays homage to his late grandmother in its cooking, and looks to Michelin-starred fine dining restaurants for inspiration.
Yao comes from a restaurant family with businesses around China; his parents met working in a five-star Chinese hotel, he says. His grandmother, from Xi’an, was a makeup artist for the Chinese opera and loved cooking at home, where he learned to appreciate her cooking.
Yingtao blends fine-dining technique with dishes that originate in places like Xi’an, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Guangzhou. The restaurant’s pipa duck is prepared with a southern Chinese technique but presented in a traditional European-style plating, served with a pumpkin-infused bao. Or with the cold qiao mai, it points to Xi’an, yet noodles are layered with the flavors of Chinese American hot and sour soup. Jakub Baster, formerly at Daniel as well as abroad at Michelin-starred La Dame de Pic in France, is the head chef steering the eight-course, $165 tasting menu.
Drinks come from Momofuku Ssäm Bar vet, Bobby Snyder, who has put together a diverse wine list and a cocktail selection that includes low- or no-alcohol drinks, as well as those with ingredients like boba, black tea, soy, and mandarin orange.
Yao points to New York’s Korean fine dining scene as an example of the potential for its Chinese restaurants — the diversity of places like the trendy Ariari, along with Jungsik and Naro, Atomix and Atoboy, and deep dives in a genre, like soup destination Okdongsik or the bakery, Lysée. Looking to those restaurants, he says, “I want to do something innovative with Chinese restaurants in New York.”
Yingtao will join the handful of dressed-up Chinese restaurants to open in the city in the past few years, others of which include the $500-per-person, 19-course restaurant Chef Guo in Midtown; as well as places like Shanghai-inspired Hutong (in what had been Le Cirque), with an affordable $50 set menu as well as dishes that start at $50 a la carte. While Shanghainese Che Li and Sichuan Mountain House aren’t necessarily fine dining, they, too, are expanding diners’ expectations for New York’s Chinese restaurant experiences.
At Yingtao, the nearly 40-seat restaurant and garden also features five seats in the kitchen and nine at a bar that will eventually include a la carte dining. Glen Coben of Glen & Co., the designer of uptown’s Empellon, Carbone, and Francie in Brooklyn, created the space, which includes a black-walled dining room, with cherry-red accents (reinforced by the restaurant’s name in Mandarin). Look for a cherry tree etching, a duck aging space, video installations, and a tile mosaic of Yao’s grandmother in the decor as well.
Yingtao opens December 5. Opening hours are 5 to 11 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday.