Yun Nan (云南) is a province in the southern part of China consisting of many mountainous ranges and bordering Laos, Vietnam and Burma. It is not only a place with an abundance of rich vegetation and natural resources but also has a well kept historical environment, making it one of the most popular tourism destinations in China. I myself have been there with my family many years ago.
Visiting Colourful Yunnan Restaurant (彩云南 – Cai Yun Nan) on Swanston St in Carlton has really conjured up these lovely memories of my travels, although I don’t quite remember the food we had (as I wasn’t yet a foodie back then). After a bit of research online, I found out that Colourful Yunnan actually moved from Flinders Lane a few months ago and has now renovated and moved into its new home at 680 Swanston St, replacing Mark’s Place Pizza Restaurant that’s all too familiar to University of Melbourne students. Please note, the address on Urbanspoon is wrong and I have since requested a change to the information.
I loved the fact that the menu was full of interesting information on the history and sight seeing in Yun Nan, although most of them are in Chinese. In fact, if you don’t have Chinese knowledge, you might find reading the menu a bit overwhelming, even though the dishes do have English names.
As Yuye and I were both well equipped with Chinese knowledge, the ordering was left to us (or rather just Yuye since I wasn’t hungry that night). We ordered 5 dishes to share between 7 people along with rice which was roughly the right amount.
The first dish to make it on the table was the potato and eggplant stir fry which cost roughly $16. As the restaurant had run out of snow pea sprouts, this was a last minute decision to order as a veggie dish so unfortunately I couldn’t remember the exact name or price. It was however, a surprisingly large and filling dish which tasted quite nice. It was well seasoned, potatoes were just the right consistency – not soggy or too soft. However, we were slightly disappointed that there wasn’t as much eggplant as we thought.
The barbecue pork spare ribs ($19.80) was again well seasoned and just the right sweetness for me. It was however unanimously agreed that it was overcooked which resulted in a rather chewy and dry texture. I was happy that it wasn’t very oily though which tends to be the case with meats in Chinese cuisine.
Everyone’s favourite dish of the night had to be the ‘beef slice, tiger lily buds and vermicelli made from bean starch in a sour soup’ for $24.80. It was a very large dish definitely to be shared between a number of people. The soup was perfectly sour for my liking (although a friend said he like it a bit more sour) and had well balanced flavour. The beef used here was thinly sliced hot pot meat (available from Asian supermarkets) which was not the best cut of meat, although obviously still quite tasty and tender. I just wished there was more soup! It was a cold night so everyone were keen on drinking a bowl of that delicious sour soup that it was gone in an instant. Whatever soup was remaining were all sucked up by the vermicelli (which by the end of the night had grown twice its original size). This dish is a definite must get in my opinion.
Not a favourite of mine was the stir fried pig’s intestines with chilli ($19.80). It was a substantial dish but we all found it a bit too oily and heavy, although taste wise was not bad. It was just out-shone by the other dishes so hardly anyone touched it.
Another dish that was changed at the last minute was this deep fried whole fish with chilli (again not sure of the exact name or cost). We had originally wanted to order the barbecue whole fish with special capsicum fruitescens sauce ($19.80) – I have no idea what that word is meant to mean – but the waiter was quite specific about it being ‘very chilli’ and recommended this new fish dish to us. We obviously didn’t look like a bunch who could handle hotness.
In the end I didn’t enjoy this fish all that much as it was overly salty and was still quite chilli. It was still salty even if you completely remove the skin and the toppings. Shame…
We didn’t order any drinks apart from Arch. His drink was at the top of the drinks menu and it looked like it had sago, coconut juice and was topped with croutons. We all thought this was a bit strange and the waiter said to make sure he drinks it AFTER the bread has been soaked in the drink. Arch didn’t like this idea as soggy bread wasn’t to his liking (not mine either) so he ate them immediately anyway. I never got to try this drink so can’t comment about the taste.
We would have normally ordered ‘Cross Bridge Rice Noodles’ as it’s a very popular and famous dish from Yun Nan but since we had so many people with us, ordering dishes to share seemed like a better idea. If you’re visiting this restaurant, I recommend trying the noodles as well.
Overall we had a good dining experience, even though some dishes were hit and miss and the service was just average (like any Chinese restaurant is really). Being so close to the University of Melbourne, I’m sure they’ll be having a lot of Asian students come in for lunch or dinner.
I managed to dig up a few photos from my travels in Yun Nan so I decided to share a few here. Mind you, these were taken in 2005 so in no way do I still look as young. Hope you like them!
We had the choice of visiting Xi Shuang Ban Na or Shangri-La but the travel agent recommended Xi Shuang Ban Na due to the cold weather in Shangri-la at the time. Yes, for those of you not as good at geography like me, Shangri-la is actually a county in the province of Yun Nan in China (the very northern end). The original name of the county was called Zhongdian and was officially changed to Shangri-la in 2001 to attract tourism. Sorry folks, the real Shangri-la in James Hilton’s book Lost Horizon is still really a mythical utopia, although I guess this Shangri-la can be considered a somewhat of a distant relative.
I would have taken vastly different (and better) photos if I went to Yun Nan again and hopefully I will be able to in the near future. I also realised that back in those days, photos were mainly of people with attractions in the background. Now my photos are full of just scenery.
Question time: When you travel, do you tend to take photos of just scenery and attractions or do you take photos of yourself and your travel companions?
Phone: (03) 9629 3038
680 Swanston St, Carlton 3053 (corner Swanston and Grattan streets)