Happily situated between the Forbidden City and the National Art Museum, Little Yunnan was a Guilin joint before its new owner changed its ways. And you still find the odd Guangxi dish on the menu. But those keen to stick toYunnan specialities won’t be disappointed.

The second dish listed under appetizers (小云南山珍三拼:棠梨花、鸡枞、茉莉花 – there is no English translation for this dish on the menu)(22RMB) transports you to the province through its pairing of garlic, vinegar-soaked jasmine buds and jizhong mushrooms, fried and chewy, yet still retaining a subtle earthy flavour.

Rubing goats’ cheese (32RMB), Yunnan’s answer to Greek halloumi, arrives as expected with golden brown edges, accompanied by liberal sprinklings of sugar and ground peppercorns to season. But the Yunnanese sausage (20RMB),normally a cold cut, comes warm and has the spicy characteristics usually associated with Sichuan fare. It’s devilishly addictive.

Elsewhere, stir-fried chicken with papaya (38RMB) is succulent pieces of meat tossed with ginger, mild chillies and slivers of a type of wild papaya that grows in the Dali region of Yunnan with a sour taste and fibrous texture similar to green mangoes. The result is a tang and heat that tickles the taste buds and a dish that is hard to stop eating. The sour and spicy fish dish (38RMB a kilo for Dali carp, 48RMB a kilo for the silver carp) is a house speciality from Dali similar to the sour fish pots from Guilin and comes in a bubbling fragrant orange broth with mint leaves, potatoes and tofu.

If you’re not a big fan of Kunming’s crossing-the-bridge noodles, you can try the no-fuss Guangxi equivalent,listed on the menu as beef rice noodles without soup (12RMB). The noodles are the same as the ones that cross the bridge,but simpler: soya nuts, pickled beans and a handful of minced beef are used to season the dish, in a way that is typical of Chinese cooking.

Little Yunnan charms precisely because of its lack of pretension. We can’t help but smile when the grapefruit tea(10RMB) we order arrives in a Spider-Man mug. It’s not really grapefruit, but a version of Korean yuja cha that’s actually a citrus marmalade mixed into hot water for a sweet and comforting brew.The decor too is simple but homely, with wooden chairs and whitewashed walls. A mezzanine sectioned off with an ethnic-patterned tie-dye throw makes the perfect spot for a private dining experience and the courtyard is a place to while away evenings during summer.

First appeared in Time Out Beijing on May 30, 2011.