Chris Yang knows firsthand how fluid and fickle the restaurant business can be. As the chef and owner of Yang’s Kitchen in Alhambra, a restaurant born the summer before the pandemic, he’s gone back to the drawing board more than a few times just to keep the business running smoothly. But with the restaurant’s steady success over the past year, Yang and his team are ready to build on the more solid foundation and take Yang’s Kitchen into its next iteration. Beginning this Friday, November 11, the restaurant will open for dinner service with a menu full of Asian-inflected small plates, snackable bar bites, and a thoughtfully selected wine list. Dinner is a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday affair for now, but based on diners’ reception could expand in the months to come.
Yang’s Kitchen initially made a splash in 2019 with its Chinese beef noodle soup and whole-grain scallion pancakes. Though critics and crowds kept the restaurant perpetually busy, the labor- and cost-intensive offerings left the restaurant’s finances on shaky ground. COVID lockdowns in 2020 gave Yang and front-of-house lead Maggie Ho the space to take a step back and reassess the business before transforming into a neighborhood market for meat, eggs, and the occasional large-format family meals to go. When the dining room finally reopened in 2021, brunch time hits like mochi pancakes and smoked salmon hashes made Yang’s Kitchen a destination for daytime dining and more financially stable than before.
Now with the introduction of dinner service, Yang and his team, which includes chef de cuisine Elaine Chang along with Ho, is taking the same cautious but optimistic approach. “We wanted to make it a drinking concept, like an izakaya or wine bar,” says Yang. “The idea is to serve smaller plates and appetizers and then a few larger portions. Basically, just a really casual and fun place to get food and drink.” Most notably, the evening menu features riffs on popular Chinese dishes, capturing some of the playful and clever spirit that put the restaurant on the map originally.
Highlights include Hainanese fish rice made with dry-aged barramundi sourced from the Joint Seafood in Sherman Oaks in place of traditional chicken. The fish is slathered in chile butter and served with chicken fat rice, a classic ginger-scallion sauce, and pickled cucumbers. “It’s a different take on a really familiar and comforting dish,” Yang says. Continuing on a similar note are the aromatic ribs, Yang’s crisp and caramelized interpretation of Chinese-style pork ribs dusted in cumin, chile, and garlic, with meat that peels off the bone. The dan dan campanelle pulls off the lip-smacking savoriness of traditional dan dan mian without any meat. “We decided to make it vegan,” says Yang. “It has a lot of mushrooms in the base and pickled mustard greens.” (The full dinner menu is below.)
To drink with plates large and small is a wine list that’s sourced with the same care as the kitchen’s ingredients. “Good wine starts with good farming,” says Yang. “To me, every winemaker is like a chef because they have to really control their process and figure out how to make their product taste the best.” The wines on the globally sourced list come from vineyards that tend to the soil in organic or regenerative ways, refrain from spraying pesticides, and do not incorporate additives or artificial ingredients. “That’s our criteria for the wines: good farming, natural production, and obviously, go well with our food or at least complement our food,” says Yang.
“I think in the next six months to a year, our plan is to find what works best for this restaurant and this space,” Yang says. “With dinner, we’re all really excited to see what kind of potential that has.”
Yang’s Kitchen is open for dinner on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.