Until now the basement of SOHO Fuxing Plaza has felt like a ghost town. But foot traffic is starting to pick up, and with a few more openings the calibre of Secret Haven, it should be bustling soon. As its name suggests, this new outlet from the Legend Taste group serving up authentic Yunnanese food is a hidden gem, and worth venturing underground for.
A striking white horse marks the entrance to the dining room and as you walk further inside, you’ll notice an eye-catching mural taking up a large portion of the restaurant’s back wall. While the decor feels fresh and young, the food is more traditional. We start the meal with the popular Yunnanese mushroom soup (48RMB). Served in a piece of bamboo, this umamirich broth is packed full of slippery, meaty fungi found in the Yunnan region: there’s jizong (sometimes referred to as chicken-flavoured mushroom); ganba (earth fan or dried-beef mushroom) and songrong (matsutake). It’s perfectly balanced and wonderfully satisfying; a hearty and highly recommendable dish.
The Dali-style fried cheese (38RMB) is another success, dishing up large deep-fried cheese skins served alongside a bowl of sugar, and a dish of flowery sweet rose jam. It’s reminiscent of cheese and quince paste, but still unique in flavour and texture. Be warned: it’s also highly addictive.
From the mains, opt for the prawns with pu’er leaves (88RMB). The crispy tea leaves are salty and rich, lending a deep and earthy flavour to the large, succulent baked prawns. Equally satisfying is the Hani style boneless chicken (48RMB), which despite being fried is light and fragrant, topped with spring onions and red and green peppers for variety and crunch.
The ‘Legend Taste Fish Fillets’ (78RMB) from the chef’s specials is a delight of boneless white sea bass, lightly stir-fried, and covered with peppers, peppercorns and chilis. If you’re after a spice kick, this probably isn’t the dish for you; the fish is gentle in heat, but has just enough tang to have you reaching for a glass of water. Secret Haven is a wonderful find, and we see it becoming a serious competitor for the likes of Yunnanese go-tos Lotus Eatery and Southern Barbarian. With fresh ingredients cooked well, there’s really very little to fault in this newly opened basement-ensconced haven.