Thursday, August 8, 2013

[Review] Yuan Ming Yuan, Princes Street, Cork

Cork has been a bit of a wasteland when it comes to authentic or proper Chinese food. There are many Chinese restaurants, but all are of the European variety. Having said that, some of these restaurants are quite good, while others are downright poor and overpriced. One of the more highly-rated establishments in Cork has caused me to cry with despair at both the gloopy quality of its food and its high prices.  I suspect that it holds fond memories for many people and hence it continues.

Yuan Ming Yuan (YMY) is a welcome spot, and it's become my default Chinese restaurant when back home in Cork. Even though it had been over a half year since my last visit, the friendly waiter immediately recognised me and made sure that our table was set with chopsticks and rice bowls, rather than cutlery. The interior of YMY is extremely ornate with lots of carved dark wooden screens and an intricate ceiling festooned with Chinese lanterns. I don't think I've ever seen so many dragons in one location.

To the best of my knowledge, YMY is the only restaurant in Cork offering Dim Sum, and we ordered a portion of Siew Mai or steamed prawn and pork dumplings (€3.90) from the selection on offer. The pork filling had a really satisfying firm bite and was studded with chunks of prawn and spring onions. A little bowl of roasted chili oil provided a little kick to the juicy and fragrant dumplings. 
Prawn and pork steamed dumplings
A whole steamed seabass came opened out, sitting in fragrant juices and topped with gingery pickled vegetables (€13.95). The moist flesh slid free of the bones with some careful prodding of chopsticks and we scooped it up along with the light juices and vegetables. Grilled spicy lamb skewers were mixed with chunks of raw white onion which grilled to a crunchy finish on the sizzlingly-hot cast iron platter (€15.95). The cost was a bit expensive for three skewers, but the lamb retained its moistness and was gently spicy with lots of toasted cumin.
Steamed seabass with pickled vegetables
Grilled spicy lamb skewers

I think I spent many of my postgraduate years in UCC looking  for authentic Chinese food. Perversely, it seemed that I had to leave before I would find what I sought. For the less adventurous diners, YMY offers the standard Chinese fare, but please look beyond those options to find the more authentic dishes and dim sum. I think you'll be pleased.

Yuan Ming Yuan, 17 Princes Street, Cork
Tel: +353 (0)21 425 4968
URL: www.ymy.ie

Yuan Ming Yuan on Urbanspoon

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