Jin Hua (CLOSED)

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Photographs: courtesy Jin Hua
Photographs: courtesy Jin Hua
Photographs: courtesy Jin Hua
408 Shaanxi Bei Lu

This venue has closed.

Yes, the slide is still there. It’s an answer to the inevitable question on hearing that a new venture replaced what was once the loosely Austrian restaurant and highly spirited creative venture Daliah. Well, though the menu, soundtracks and décor have changed, the space’s offbeat, whimsical soul – which its signature metal slide spiralling from the second to first floor epitomises so well – remains.

If Daliah ever flickered across your radar, you’d likely know it as much as a place for LGBTQ afterhours parties as a restaurant serving schnitzel. Founder Daliah Spiegel has taken the progressive queerness of her eponymous restaurant and, along with the team behind Slurp! and Pilipala, transformed it into Jin Hua.

Named for the term used in Yunnan to describe exceptional women, Jin Hua (‘golden flower’) turns out unpretentious takes on the province’s cuisine in a space that crosses Yunnan’s tropical dreamland vibes with a womxn philosophical outlook. Tasselled lamps hang over the tables, long sprays of ivy drape from the ceiling and a wall of ageing photographs and posters plastered with images of female icons of yore.

The menu largely traverses classic Yunnan fare, heavy on the wild mushrooms and spicy-sour notes. In line with its ethos, vegetarian and vegan options appear in abundance or are clearly marked where swaps are possible.

To start, a sampler platter of sort – the Dai Minority ‘Eat with Your Fingers’ Banquet (98RMB) – arrives on banana leaves bearing Yunnan wild mushroom fried rice, papery thin (and passable) deep-fried rushan cheese and the always-delectable standard fried goats cheese served here with a delicate rose jam. We lean towards the vegetarian choice of a hot-and-sour mix of Yunnan mushroom (great on taste, yet oddly slimy) over Dai-style roast chicken or vegan chilli-coated ‘street potatoes’, which end up arriving in place of a mint salad as fortune has it. (Turns out they’re amazing and worth ordering extra.)

The platter portends how the meal is meant to go on – good on the balance, with peaks of greatness. A phenomenal roast tilapia (58RMB) redolent with lemongrass and a blend of Dai spices like cumin and dried chilli outshines slippery fried water fern with tomato (48RMB). We snap up spicy pieces of wok-fried chicken (68RMB) tossed with cubes of chewy erkuai (rice cakes) while sipping on cocktails named Menstruation Monster (gin shaken with Cointreau and crème de violette, 75RMB) and Sky on Fire (chilli-infused tequila with plum wine, 68RMB). If only space had allowed for a tumbler of Support Your Local Girl Gang...

Jin Hua’s dreamy paradise setting and bold personality will leave a twinkle in your eye and while every dish might not dazzle, but the ones that do, blaze bright.

By Cat Nelson

Venue name: Jin Hua (CLOSED)
Opening hours: 11am-11pm
Metro: Nanjing Xi Lu
English address: 408 Shaanxi Bei Lu, near Beijing Xi Lu, Jingan district
Chinese address: 静安区陕西北路408号, 近北京西路