If you are a regular patron of the New Haven food scene you may have already heard of a new restaurant called Junzi Kitchen. If you haven’t, and before you dismiss it as yet another Chinese restaurant, I urge you to read on.
Junzi Kitchen is not your average Chinese restaurant. For here you will NOT find General Tso’s Chicken, or Hot & Sour Soup or even Chicken & Broccoli with Lo Mein. No… this is more like a Chipotle-style restaurant offering relatively unfamiliar northern Chinese flavors. It’s fashioned after what they call a “fast-casual” restaurant. Which means that it offers fast service like any fast food place except its also paired with higher quality ingredients, freshly prepared food, friendly service and an understated yet trendy vibe. It’s a place designed to make you feel comfortable and welcome. One where you are bound to run into your fellow-foodie-friends. A place where you catch up with your besties over food that is both healthy and delicious!
Like Chipotle, the Junzi Kitchen customer has total control of how he/she would like their order to be prepared. The menu is basically super simple with two options: Bing (a wrap) or Noodles. What you are offered is choices of two types of Bings and two types of noodles to start with. Then you move on to pick your choice of protein (braised meats), followed by any number of veggies you’d like. Top it off with your choice of garnishes for fresh flavors and finally you get to bring it all together with your choice of sauce(s). With all the permutations and combinations of bing and noodles, protein choices, veggie combos, toppings and sauces – this simple menu offers hundreds (or is it thousands?) of unique end results. The noodles are served in a bowl – with all the toppings you chose. The bing is a wrap – is popular street food in northern China.
This style of food and these flavors are not totally unfamiliar to us – yet they are a bit different. I found everything to be filling yet not too greasy or overwhelming as Chinese food often tends to be. Eating this food made me feel like I did something really good for my body as well as my taste buds. 🙂
Junzi Kitchen is launched by a group of Yale graduates. Lucas (who has worked in Michelin starred restaurants in Hong Kong & Japan, and has written for Lucky Peach), a very passionate young man, is at the helm of this kitchen. His passion is good food and he is bringing it to the New Haven food scene with such a wonderful flair and a super-sunny personality. He loves hiring students from Yale each semester – and training them in kitchen skills. He is dedicated to providing a platform for young students to “develop culinary skills from ground up”.
Junzi Kitchen staff is a great mix of ethnicities. Which the restaurant sees as its greatest advantage. For they host special fusion dinners from time to time (announcement on upcoming dates can be found on social media). The menu changes each time because it depends on which team member will be coming forward to collaborate on it – bringing flavors from his/her ethnicity and cuisine preferences. So… what you are bound to get is unusual, ambitious, adventurous food (which will be quite unlike the basic menu at Junzi Kitchen) – but served by the same friendly and smiling faces that make this restaurant a very special place.
Junzi Kitchen was an instant hit with the the New Haven community. Lucas told me that they are poised to open their second location in New York city in early 2017. It may very well become a national chain… but remember, it all started in New Haven Connecticut!
Check it out, if you haven’t already!