By Lise Monty
County Lines Magazine
October 30, 2009
Source: County Lines
The traditional and the cutting-edge fuse deliciously and stylishly at this thriving Main Line restaurant. East not only meets West here, the two mingle and party with gusto.
Chinese classics like Mu Shu pork and Peking duck share menu space with American/International favorites such as wine-sauced crab cakes that are superb and delectable desserts — cappuccino crème brûlée, anyone? The secret: two autonomous kitchens, one Western and one Chinese, each with its own chef and managers.
I’m not sure which kitchen creates fusion dishes like the grilled filet marinated with Szechuan peppers prepared with cremini mushrooms and teriyaki cabernet reduction. But I’m confident it would be a winner because I’ve always enjoyed everything I’ve had here over 10-plus years. The savvy chefs stay on top of trends, buying from local farmers and other sources, organic when available, going easy on salt and bad fats and offering seasonal menus.
Awards for excellence, national as well as local, keep pouring in. USA Today, Gourmet Magazine, ABC and NBC, the James Beard Foundation have all touted Yangming.
The minute you walk in, you know this is not your mother’s Chinese restaurant. Yangming’s elegant ambiance celebrates Eastern design. Modernistic geometric touches extend from a large, wood-framed octagon-shaped mirror to chair backs with cut-out checkerboard patterns that suggest shoji screens, handsome white dishes in triangular and rectangular shapes and distinctive doorways to private dining areas.
I like being greeted by the larger-than-life-size terra cotta warrior statue in the foyer and seeing the intriguing calligraphy canvases. But I especially enjoy the amazing etched-glass panels that divide sections of the huge dining area. Our group had fun exploring the seascape panel separating our dining room from the bar, discovering a variety of marine life images hidden in its watery swirls.
The staff never seems to miss a beat. Every time our young server brought something new or cleared a dish, he carefully arranged or re-arranged everything, fresh flowers included, on the pristine white tablecloth. And we watched with admiration as another server quickly and skillfully boned a whole fish at an adjacent table. My companions cheered the wooden chopsticks they favor over the more common plastic version.
Sweet Sour, Crispy, Zesty
It was great fun to satisfy the cravings I’d had all day for a bowl of honest Hot and Sour Soup ($2.95). The steamy, slightly zingy brew offered all the expected goodies: bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, small cubes of tofu, shredded pork and dried lily buds, seasoned with a good balance of white pepper for the “hot” and vinegar for the “sour.”
Another Chinese standby, egg rolls, were more uptown but every bit as down-home in taste. Their skin crackled as we bit into the Crispy Spring Rolls ($4.50) filled with lightly seasoned chopped shrimp, chicken and various vegetables, kicked up a bit by the conventional mustard and duck sauces. A bit fancier and visually more feminine, the three crispy Golden Crabmeat Purses ($9.95) encased a filling of lump crabmeat bound with cream cheese. A bit of fusion going on here. They sat in a slightly tangy chili sauce, a tasty blend of sweet and hot.
Other appetizer choices include pan-fried tri-mushroom dumplings, steamed pork dumplings, barbecued baby spareribs, char-grilled Satay lamb, Thai chicken, jumbo shrimp in crispy shredded phyllo dough, Peking-style scallion pancake and chicken curls in lettuce. Also avocado stuffed with tarragon shrimp salad, Peking duck salad with artichoke hearts and crabmeat and mango salad. So many savory choices!
From Szechuan to the Eastern Shore
One of Yangming’s most popular entrées, Jumbo Shrimp with Honey Walnuts ($17.50), charmed as much as ever with its tender shrimp in a garlicky sauce and crunchy honeyed walnuts. Winner of the evening’s best-looking presentation award, Seafood in Flower Basket ($19.95) featured an elaborate noodle container with a swirly rim filled with a colorful toss of shellfish and vegetables. A light sauce with ginger and garlic flavors coated the shrimp, scallops, broccoli, snow peas and slivers of green and yellow bell pepper, topped with a large crawfish.
Szechuan Tri-Pepper Chicken ($12.95), selected from a separate sheet offering 16 choices from “Master Chef Zhang’s Szechuan Specialties,” hit the hot and spicy notes with vigor. Lots and lots of those classic whole dried Chinese chilies and slices of an equally potent fresh green pepper I couldn’t identify mixed it up with cubes of sautéed white meat chicken in a bold sauce. I was grateful for the coolness of a crisp Tsingtao Beer ($4.50/bottle) to counter the heat. The wine list is extensive and notable for having received Wine Spectator’s “Five-Star Diamond Award.” And a friend who is a long-time customer cheers Yangming’s “excellent martinis.”
A sampling of entrées from the extensive menu: spicy orange beef, spicy wild-peppered lamb, Asian spice-rubbed rack of lamb, “very spicy” firecracker veal, chicken with goat cheese and walnut stuffing, mu-shu chicken, Szechuan sesame chicken, rainbow wild-peppered chicken, General Tso’s chicken and mango chicken with mirin brandy sauce. Under seafood: pan-roasted Norwegian salmon with Asian pesto, skillet-seared Ahi tuna, lemongrass sake shrimp, wok-tossed mustard coconut shrimp, spicy gun powder shrimp, lobster with saffron and Thai herbs and sizzling triple delight (shrimp, chicken and beef).
Delectable Desserts. Really
Our intentions to have “just one bite” evaporated with our first taste of the Cappuccino Crème Brûlée ($5.95) andChocolate Toffee Tarte ($5.95). The crackly topping/smooth custard characteristics that make crème brûlée so irresistible were bolstered with true chocolate/coffee flavors. Between forkfuls of the tarte, we cheered the crunchy pecan crust, rich chocolate toffee mousse and classic chocolate ganache.
Other dessert choices included tiramisu, fried banana with crushed peanuts, mud pie and house-made green tea ice cream and sorbet.
Fortune cookies dipped in excellent dark chocolate — talk about fusion! — sent us home happy. Not surprising: the word “Yangming” means “sunny, bright and happy,” according to menu notes.