A visit to 'high priest of Sichuan' is a must
A private garden villa on Julu Road is home to Yu Zhi Lan — an upscale restaurant specializing in the delicate Sichuan cuisine.
It’s not your typical Sichuan restaurant but a well-crafted culinary experience, a harmonious equilibrium between the flavors of ingredients and its condiments.
Lan Guijun, “the high priest of Sichuan” and the father of chicken feet with pickled peppers, is the mastermind behind it all.
He opened Yu Zhi Lan in Chengdu in 2011. And when Yu Zhi Lan opened in Shanghai in April last year, he became the restaurant’s executive chef.
Traditional Sichuan cuisine is known for its distinct styles and versatility: the perfect integration of flavors, natural ingredients and the art of enhancing it all.
Based on the traditional 24 compound flavors known in Sichuan cuisine, the 54-year-old applied his philosophy and made slight tweaks to create Yu Zhi Lan’s own rendition of the recipe.
Lan is not only a master chef but has also devoted himself to learning the art of pottery making.
Today, all the underglaze serving dishes at Yu Zhi Lan are designed and made by Lan. The beautiful meal presentations are part of the exquisite journey.
A tableau of six cold appetizers whet my appetite with its artsy presentation. I started with a light-colored dish before proceeding to the more heavy-colored ones.
The flavors went from mild to more pungent and spicy. The serving vessel, painted by famous artists from Jingdezhen and made by Odorless Burmese rosewood, was used to ensure that the vessel would not affect the flavor of food. The next three cold appetizers were sharing dishes between diners sitting opposite each other.
Chef Lan knows how to place emphasis on unique materials and experimental cooking methods.
Top-quality ingredients are always found in his recipes. Among the many courses that followed, the hand-made “golden silk” noodles with cabbage heart was an impressive one.
The golden silk noodles is an old recipe dating back more than 200 years — a luxurious dish that only the elite in society ate during festival celebrations and feasts, because the meal requires refined cooking techniques.
A 2-meter-long bamboo rod is used to press, push down and roll the dough five times until it becomes a sheet of raw noodles. Then an oversized knife is used to shave the sheets into hair-like strands. The dough is made with duck yolks and without adding any water.
The soup is Lan’s version of Sichuan’s famous “cabbage in boiling water,” a luxurious limpid broth made with free-range duck, free-range hen, Jinhua ham and cooked for four to five hours. The thin, smooth, yolk-yellow noodles, served in the rich soup, leave you craving for more.
Sturgeon caviar and shrimp jelly soup was another ultra-fine course, making Yu Zhi Lan a unique place to dine.
A bite of the finest caviar paired with the jelly form of sweet soup made from prawn was a divine moment.
Opening hours: 10:30am-2pm, 5-10:30pm
Address: 851 Julu Rd
Average price: 1,500 yuan (US$222.7)