music in the park san jose

.Jun Bistro Explores Yunnan Cuisine in Milpitas

Mushroom-forward dishes also feature Southeast Asian flavors

music in the park san jose

There are a dozen restaurants to choose from on the short walk from one corner of Milpitas Square to the front entrance of Jun Bistro. And that stretch of concrete is only one quarter of a mall jam-packed with dining options. None of them express an aesthetic point of view with the same degree of clarity.

The hero image on Jun Bistro’s website is an aerial view of a farmer working in a field of tall, voluminous, windswept vegetation. The name of the restaurant is etched in white across this vast green field.

That green and white color scheme comes to life inside Jun Bistro’s interior. From plant life—some simulated, some real—to sage-colored cutlery and jade-accented flooring, the white-walled space is awash in an abundance of greenery.

One of several instructive posters on the wall features a map of China’s Yunnan province. The map is dotted with different varieties of mushrooms. An explanatory note at the bottom reads, “There are approximately 900 species of wild, edible fungi in Yunnan.” Additionally, the character jun, the website points out, “is taken from the Chinese for mushroom.”

Shroom Boom

Jun Bistro doesn’t offer anything close to 900 mushrooms on the menu, but mycologists who stop by for a bite to eat won’t be disappointed. There’s even jun-themed merchandise, which includes mushroom-shaped vases, cups and chopsticks holders—and a packet of truffle tea (0.49oz) sells for $32.99.

Apart from the kitschy tchotchkes, the restaurant serves exceptional versions of both Yunnan specialties and Southeast Asian fusion dishes. The Chinese province of Yunnan is north of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Some of the flavors more frequently associated with those countries showed up in a simmering platter of lemon fish ($35) and a spicy beef rib and noodle soup ($19.99).

After the fish is marinated overnight, fried and then steamed, it’s served on a platter that’s smothered in Thai basil leaves, lime slices, green onions, cilantro and red chili.

The beef noodle soup is essentially a giant bowl of pho. The broth, made from beef bones, is amped up with Sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers, which raised my internal thermometer and left me, happily, red-eyed and incandescent. The chef created a visual illusion of coolness with generous amounts of green herbs on top. But whole leaves of basil and a dozen scallion stalks didn’t counter or cool down the assertive presence of hot spices.

Beef noodle soup on the table at Jun Bistro
COOL GREENS Leaves of basil and scallion stalks on top don’t tame the fiery beef noodle soup.

A wild mushroom conserva ($7.99) appetizer included four types of fungi—matsutake, shiitake, velvet antler and termite mushrooms. The texture was similar to dried fruit, a tasty liminal space somewhere between nutty and chewy, and spiked with the right amount of chili flakes and chili oil.

Addictive Appetizers

Another starter, tiny pillows of fried tofu ($9.99), was remarkable because of the coconut ranch dipping sauce, which combined coconut milk and cream, sour cream, mayo, lime juice, garlic and chives (available to take home for $0.99). I lapped it up the way Lucy Ricardo guzzled Aunt Martha’s Old-Fashioned Salad Dressing.

When they were initially served, a plate of fried ribs ($19.99) looked like they would be dry and tough because of the lemongrass coating. But the menu described them accurately: “tender inside after the chef’s special roasting.” Of all the dishes we tried, I repeatedly reached out for another rib until there was only a pile of bones left.

Having said that, the Yunnan style braised chicken with potato ($22.50) also held my attention from start to finish. A cousin of a Thai yellow curry, the sauce is golden brown and thickened from the stir-fried, rather than boiled, potatoes.

Four dishes and a beverage on a table at Jun Bistro
DISH IT OUT From top left, Yunnan style braised chicken with potato, wild mushroom conserva, fried ribs, and pillows of fried tofu with coconut ranch dipping sauce.

For dessert, the staff suggested an order of falooda ($8.99). Jun Bistro makes their version like a chè or dessert soup and without vermicelli, basil or rose syrup. This recipe includes ingredients that pop with color and a range of textures. Sweet, creamy red beans bathe in condensed milk and coconut milk along with sago, purple rice, taro paste and biscuits made from ice cream cones that dissolve in the mouth like the fleshy center of a french fry.

Jun Bistro, open Tues to Sun 11:30am–2:30pm and 5–9pm, 290 Barber Court, Milpitas. 669.629.0965. junbistro.us.

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