Back in 2015, a few Yale students, including chef and culinary director Lucas Sin, got together and opened Junzi Kitchen in New Haven. The small counter-serve spot dishes out traditional Northern Chinese cuisine, specializing in bings (flour-pressed wraps) and noodles.
Since its creation, Junzi Kitchen has expanded to New York City, with one currently at Colombia University and a second to open on Bleecker Street this spring.
The New Haven location is bright and welcoming. It has an organic feel with its white brick walls, light wood accents, and lush greenery dangling from the ceiling. On one wall, there is a small display of featured artwork, including ceramics made by the China-based artist Junty.
The menu concept is fairly simple. You order at the counter, choosing your base (bing or noodle), protein (chicken, beef, tofu, pork, or mushroom), vegetables (kale, wild cabbage, or pickled peppers), garnish (shallots or cilantro), and sauce (garlic chili or jaja, depending on which base you have).
But for those who don’t like so many options, there’s also the chef selections that make the decision process less complicated. For example, the chicken and kale bing made with roasted sesame and bean sprouts is a solid choice, leaving you with only deciding whether you want a wheat or white bing. As for the noodles, the chef recommends the jaja mushroom, which is without a doubt, worth trying. It’s made with your choice of thick (knife) or thin (spring) noodles and topped with king oyster mushrooms, kale, and smokey chive ash, all mixed in a jaja sauce (black beans and soy bean paste). Be sure to add sweet peppers to the mix to complement the bowl perfectly.
If you’re craving a kick, it’s essential to try the restaurant’s own chili oil. It’s made with chilies, peppercorns, and cayenne so yeah, it packs a punch.
There’s also a couple sides to choose from, such as the cucumber salad served in black vinegar and garlic, along with drink choices of juice boxes, sodas, and teas, including the gunpowder rose tea with real dried roses. It’s not overly sweet but very refreshing - which is what you’ll need after that chili oil.
On Friday and Saturday evenings from 10:30pm-1:30am, there’s an after hours menu at each location, featuring smaller plates reminiscent to Asian street food (think: Mongolian beef noodles to tofu and mushroom rice bowl). The restaurant also hosts monthly Chef’s Table events offering a five-course tasting menu with rotating theme. And if you’re looking for the food to come to you, Junzi Kitchen has you covered. Order your food ahead of time online and have it delivered or ready for pick-up. Bada bing, bada boom.
21 Broadway; New Haven
Photography courtesy of Junzi