New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

YAO: Where traditional Cantonese cuisine meets global innovation

This fine dining experience offers modernized Cantonese dishes that are as visually stunning as they are delicious.
Mikaylah Du
YAO NYC is located at 213 Pearl St. (Mikaylah Du for WSN)

Some people say we eat with our eyes first, but YAO happens to be a feast for both the eyes and the tastebuds. Located in the Financial District, modern Cantonese restaurant YAO brings a uniquely fresh twist to traditional dishes. 

I delved into their Jia Yan Tasting Menu with a friend, an eight-course meal for a minimum of two at $138 per person. If you have money to splurge, I can’t recommend it enough.

We started the night with Deep Fried Hokkaido Scallop, a battered scallop garnished with saffron. One thing to add straight off the bat — the dishes are absolutely stunning. I originally thought that the aesthetic presentation would hinder the taste but I’m happy to admit I was completely wrong. The deep-fried scallop was surprisingly light, and the batter provided a satisfying crunch to the chewiness of the scallop.

A hand holding chopsticks picks up a small piece of fried scallop garnished with pepper slices on an artisanal stand.
Deep Fried Hokkaido Scallop. (Mikaylah Du for WSN)

Next, we were served the Shikoku Bamboo Shrimp Dumpling, a singular large dumpling dyed black by ground bamboo topped with truffle shavings. A waiter poured chicken broth over our dumplings tableside, a fun experience that was appreciated given the prix fixe price. The dumpling was not the easiest to eat, however, considering the size and how slippery it was. It slid out my chopsticks more times than I would like to admit, but the combined texture of the slippery wrapper and the soft shrimp was divine.

A cup pours a golden chicken broth into a bowl with a shrimp dumpling.
Shikoku Bamboo Shrimp Dumplings. (Mikaylah Du for WSN)

Our third course was Gold Leaf Wrapped Fried Abalone, my personal favorite. Abalone is a Chinese delicacy and often served at important events and banquets. I’ve tried a variety of abalone over the years, but YAO’s version will never leave my mind. The abalone was fried in a thin coat of batter and then wrapped in gold leaf. The crispiness of the batter paired perfectly with the chewiness of the abalone and the tangy sauce.

A knife and fork cut into a piece of gold leaf wrapped abalone.
Gold Leaf Wrapped Fried Abalone. (Mikaylah Du for WSN)

The Alaskan King Crab Wensi Tofu Soup was the perfect palate cleanser after all of the oily food. Our waiter informed us the tofu was prepared using a method where the chef cut a block of tofu into 1,000 thin strands. The soup was Chinese “geng” — a thick, almost gelatinous soup. The thin strands of crab added pops of flavor to the otherwise light soup.

Noodles in a bowl of broth with tofu and crab. A porcelain spoon is on the right with a metal stand.
Alaskan King Crab Wensi Tofu Soup. (Mikaylah Du for WSN)

We were then served Grilled Angus Short Ribs, featuring fatty cuts of beef with crispy edges over asparagus. The sweet-and-salty sauce paired perfectly with the soft beef cuts that melted in my mouth.

Sliced short ribs covered in sauce on top of avocado slices.
Grilled Angus Short Ribs. (Mikaylah Du for WSN)

This was followed up with another palate cleanser, which was soup with Sprout, a light chicken broth with refreshing sprouts and goji berries. 

Noodles with green sprouts and tomatoes in a pale broth.
Soup with Sprout. (Mikaylah Du for WSN)

Our final dish before dessert was Longevity Noodles with Wild Octopus. The octopus was cooked sous vide, creating an incredibly tender texture. The noodles were garlicky and buttery, but felt a bit heavy at the end of such a long meal. 

Thick noodles in a brown sauce with sliced octopus garnished with a purple flower.
Longevity Noodles with Wild Octopus. (Mikaylah Du for WSN)

Finally, we were served the Dessert Duo which was — and I’m not exaggerating — life-changing. Life. Changing. Our dessert consisted of a scoop of apple sorbet topped with a sesame ball filled with red bean paste, and a fried pumpkin cake with a creamy custard filling. The apple sorbet was so refreshing. 

Small blue dish with a sesame ball on top of apple sorbet.
Apple sorbet with sesame ball. (Mikaylah Du for WSN)
Orange cake and custard filling with a green garnish to replicate a pumpkin.
Pumpkin cake with custard filling. (Mikaylah Du for WSN)

For what you’re getting, the Jia Yan Tasting Menu is almost a steal. If you find yourself with a few extra hours and a few extra hundreds in your bank account, I’d recommend heading over to YAO and trying it yourself.

Contact Mikaylah Du at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Mikaylah Du
Mikaylah Du, Illustration Editor
Mikaylah Du is a first-year studying Media, Culture, and Communication. She's a fine art nerd and one of the few people that actually likes writing essays. Follow her art account on Instagram @mikaylahdoodles to see her post once in a blue moon.

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