Yipin China is all about the food. Moments from the amenity-hub of Islington, exists a firecracker of a restaurant which specialises in the cuisine of the Hunan province of southern China. At a glance, it has the air of one of those forgettable, nondescript Chinese restaurants that are just there to make up the numbers. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Spiced fungus £4.90
In a setting that barely teeters on the right side of clinical, a skeleton-staff of Chinese waiters are on deck to simply take your order in a polite manner, and let you get on with it. Perfect. Of course it doesn’t hurt that it’s local, well priced and utterly delicious. Which is why you’ll often find me in here, wiping the sweat off my forehead and the back of my neck, as my mouth refuses to crack under the duress of chillies.
Man & wife offal slices £7.90
Hunanese cooking will test your mettle. “Man & wife” offal slices – a cold pile of beef, offal and tongue in no particular order, interspersed with chillies, and sprinkled with crushed peanuts, in a puddle of chilli oil – will let you know in a hurry whether or not you belong. Flavours are big. No. They’re huge. And as that chilli oil gradually imposes its will, you *will* reach for your beverage. That, I promise you.
Gong Bao prawns and cashew nuts £12.90
Down in the kitchen, Chef Mingyuan Geng – one of the most able Hunanese chefs in the UK – works tirelessly on a daily basis to bring you food that will light-up your taste buds. The menu is unusual, not because it is so physically large, but because it is one of the rare occasions where a picture-menu ceases to be a tacky condescension, and instead has your saliva on standby mode. It is split up into Hunanese, Sichuanese and Cantonese sections. In most cases, there’s minimal downtime between ordering and the arrival of your food.
Dry-wok chicken £12.80
If you want to go all the way with this, then the Hunanese dishes are the way forward. Not to take anything away from the rest of the menu, but it’s what Geng does best. A cold appetiser of spiced fungus with fresh green and red chillies is the kind of thing that tastes like it would grant temporary immunity to sickness and disease. Gong Bao prawns – a juicy, glazed concoction of sweet & sour so sticky, it doesn’t even drip – has the added sting of dried chillies thrown in with the accompanying garlic, ginger and cashew nuts.
Something of a signature dish are the dry-wok dishes, which come in varieties of chicken, duck tongues, pig intestines, frog legs, squid and bean curd. On a wooden support, comes a metal wok with bite-size chunks of moist, flavoursome chicken in a perpetual smoulder, amongst a pile of red and green chillies and onions, in a powerful reduction that has absorbed all of the former.
Egg fried rice £2.50
Skilfully cooked egg fried rice, where the grains separate effortlessly, and the level of oil just right, is the sort of thing I could eat all day, every day. Almost anything on the menu can find a friend in it.
Stir-fried lamb with hot peppers £9.90
A plate of stir-fried lamb is so liberally splashed with hot peppers and red chillies, I routinely stop to dab my shimmering face, which prompts a considerate waiter to replenish my napkin supply without the need to ask. At times I may have been dangerously close to resembling Adam Richman of Man vs Food, during the opening minutes of one of his ‘chicken-wings of death’ challenges, before the pain has truly taken ahold. But to me, food this good is worth a little sweat and tears.
food : 8.5/10
service : 8/10
ambience : 4/10
value : 9/10
70-72 Liverpool Road, London N1 0QD
0207 354 3388