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YAO NYC: Modern Takes on Cantonese Cuisine

YAO NYC: Modern Takes on Cantonese Cuisine

YAO NYC: Modern Takes on Cantonese Cuisine

At YAO, experience modern interpretations of Cantonese cuisine, with dishes like fried abalone covered with gold leaf and charcoal and bamboo shrimp dumplings in a shimmering truffle broth.

If you want nostalgia or cheap bites, there are plenty of Chinese restaurants in NYC, Chinatown, Flushing, Queens, and beyond, and they are worth checking out. But it’s not the reason to come to YAO. You’re coming here for something different: high-end Cantonese cuisine that delivers modern takes on traditional dishes. Here, you’ll find a charcoal shrimp dumpling boasting Japanese and French flavors. You will also find Longevity Noodles, a staple at Chinese banquets, but at YAO, it’s paired with Spanish-style Wild Octopus and truffles for that modern flair.

YAO - table spread
YAO – table spread

Tucked away in an unassuming building in the Financial District, YAO is the brainchild of Executive Chef Kenny Leung and Co-Founder Thomas Tang. They are the same duo behind the acclaimed August Gatherings, another Cantonese-focused restaurant in the city that’s more traditional.

The restaurant’s a la carte menu offers a diverse selection of dishes to meet different budgets. Appetizers are priced between $10 to $21 and include Brown Sugar Duck Thigh and Hokkaido Black Snail with Special Sauce.

The main course menu is divided into sections, featuring Abalone dishes like the Braised South African Abalone, Owner Tang’s picks, such as the Grill Berkshire Pork, Signature Dishes like the Mandarin Duck, seafood dishes like Mapo Tofu with Lobster*, meat dishes such as the Traditional Chinese Salt-Baked Chicken, and much more. For first-timers, it may be difficult to choose from the extensive menu.

Yao Cantonese CuisineThe restaurant also offers a menu called Jia Yan, a seven-course tasting menu, that allows you to sample some of the dishes without going over budget. Jia-Yan, is a Chinese word loosely translating to “a celebratory family gathering” or “banquet”.

For this tasting menu, you can taste ingredients from land to sea, from East to West. The set menu includes seven dishes, and two desserts, which costs $138 per person, with a minimum of two people. Although it may seem pricey, it’s a fun journey of tastes and ingredients, and you’ll leave not only full – but with an abundance of new impressions and flavors bouncing around your mouth. YAO also offers a premium Jia-Yan experience for $338 per person; if diners are interested in this option, they must reserve at least two days in advance.

The Interior

Yao Cantonese Cuisine

Enter the building on Pearl Street and take an elevator to the 2nd floor; you’ll find a space in a room with sleek chairs and tables set around a massive tree. Additionally, there are three private rooms, each fitted with one large round table, which is perfect for special celebrations. In these private rooms, it’s a nonnegotiable to get the Grilled Berkshire Pork; why? The hefty meat is set ablaze at the table-side, making it a great entertainment addition to your celebration.

Jia Yan, Seven-Course Tasting Menu, Run Down

YAO - Gold Leaf Wrapped Fried Abalone
YAO – Gold Leaf Wrapped Fried Abalone

Deep Fried Hokkaido Scallop – anything deep fried is good. While this is on the salty end of the flavor spectrum, it was meaty and satisfyingly good. It sits on a tall white dish and is topped with two small pepper slices, adding color and heat to the crisp golden beauty.

Shikoku Bamboo Shrimp Dumpling – also served in a white dish. It’s wide, and there is a hole where a black, chewy dumpling is placed. The server then pours a shimmering yellow broth to surround it. The broth is mesmerizing, but you’ll know it is the show’s star once you taste the dumpling.

Gold Leaf Wrapped Fried Abalone—Often served at Chinese weddings and other cultural celebrations, abalone is a luxury dish. YAO takes the luxurious seafood a step further by wrapping it in gold leaf and a wonton skin and deep-frying it. Your taste buds would be overwhelmed with flavors and textures in the best way possible. Like the other dishes, the plating is gorgeous, but it is nothing compared to the gold leaf-wrapped abalone.

Alaskan King Crab Wensi Tofu Soup small bites of Alaskan King Crab compliment the tofu soup, served in a dainty porcelain china.

Grilled Angus Short Ribs – cooked medium-rare, the ribs melt in your mouth and are paired with crunchy asparagus drizzled with the rib sauce— which ultimately contributes as much to the excellence of the dish as the succulent meat does.

Soup with Sprout – It’s herbal and medicinal; think of it as a palate cleanser for the final courses.

See Also

Longevity Noodles with Wild Octopus—it may sound wrong, but it’s oh so right, and if you see it, it’s a thing of beauty. Edible flowers top the toss-up of braised wild octopus and noodles. If you like braised and savory things, then you’ll love YAO’s noodles paired with slow cooked octopus.

Dessert duo: The cutest pumpkin cake and a deep-fried mochi sesame ball with ice cream.

Pair the Jia Yan tasting with a drink from the cocktail menu ranging from $17 – $21, such as The Lemongrass Mezcal Vesperado $23 and Nan Hai Daiquiri $19. If you’d prefer wines, go with the Sommelier Pairing with an option for $80 per person or $130 per person.



213 Pearl Street

New York, NY, 10038

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