Yunnan beef noodle soup at Ivory Kitchen in Port Washington.

Yunnan beef noodle soup at Ivory Kitchen in Port Washington. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Ivory Kitchen, a tiny Chinese restaurant on Port Washington’s Main Street, closed on Aug. 19, 600 days (according to owner Jeff Li) after it opened.

Li, a native of Yunnan province and a veteran of authentic Chinese restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Chinatowns, served familiar crowd-pleasers old (fried rice) and new (soup dumplings), but his calling cards were dishes such as Yunnan beef noodle soup, smoked duck breast, braised whole fish in hot bean sauce, stir-fried lamb and sauteed lotus root with black beans and green chili.

Was the menu too much, too unfamiliar, too soon? Li wondered if his concept was at fault. He also lamented that, despite the Main Street address, Ivory Kitchen never got on the town’s radar. “The day we closed,” he said, “there were people who came in who asked if we just opened.”

Ivory Kitchen debuted in February 2022, after the worst of the pandemic had passed. But ingredient prices were twice as high as he’d planned. “After I paid my rent and paid my employees,” Li admitted, “there was no profit.” Perpetually short-staffed, his wife, Cissie Xi, worked on weekends when she was off from her teaching job. That situation, he felt, was unsupportable.

He’s seriously considering leaving the restaurant business. “This experience,” he admitted, “has hurt my heart.”

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