For one of our favourite, most reliable and great places to take visitors, it certainly has taken us a long time to blog about Aimo Town.
We don’t even have the excuse that we’ve been going back sampling all their food, because we haven’t – we stick to almost the same tried and true dishes every time.
It’s because this cheap Yunnan restaurant does these things so well that we can’t bring ourselves to desert the mashed potato, mint salad, tempura beans, thick noodles with egg and chicken or grilled fish.
Yunnan is at the bottom of China, on the borders of Laos, Vietnam, Burma and Tibet, so takes food influences and tastes from those countries. There’s spicy chili, fresh mint and fish sauce through many dishes, and preserved ham in the delicious rice. It takes a lot of self control for me not to duck in there every lunchtime…I work next door to it!
Set inside a funky and arty hutong complex, Aimo Town has a cosy ambience. Yunnan handmade paper lamps and textiles adorn the walls, and there’s often really good folk singers and instrumentalists playing live in the main dining room.
The fish come on skewers, wrapped in banana leaf and barbecued with herbs and spices stuffed inside. The mint salad has punch, with fish sauce, chili, garlic and other flavours we’ve tried to distinguish but haven’t yet.
Fried beans are really something special, and are so moreish. They come with what seems like nori (dried seaweed) and an incredibly tasty green vegetable mixed through. Virtually every table has a potato dish on it – either the dome of mash (who doesn’t love mash!?), or the shredded and fried pancake, like a rosti.
We love it because it’s so different to other regional cooking and eating in China – visitors love the flavours and how it’s almost “unexpected” when you think of Chinese food. There’s no sign of sweet and sour pork, beef with black bean or special fried rice on this menu.
But, Aimo Town needs to improve on one thing…the Yunnan flavours call for a lovely cold beer, and while most of the time they leave their Dali beer in the fridge, on a few occasions we’ve visited when they haven’t turned the fridge on!