Northeast Portland Cantonese barbecue restaurant, YaYa, has served its last roast duck. In an Instagram post this weekend, owner Steven Chin announced that the restaurant would close for good after service on Sunday, August 28, attributing the closure to supply chain issues, inflation, the labor shortage, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we opened 14 months ago, Portland was still in the depths of the pandemic,” writes owner Steven Chin. “Beyond the lockdowns, the numerous other challenges ranging from staffing & supply chain shortages, illnesses, food & transportation costs (to name a few) have made it impossible to keep YaYa open.”
Chin grew up in his grandfather’s New York grocery store, which sold dishes like char siu and crispy pork belly to the Chinatown community. Chin grew up passionate about Chinatown and Asian American culture, working on the New York Chinese History Project and covering the Asian American population for the San Francisco Examiner. The restaurant was a decade-plus bucket list item for Chin.
“I’ve always been fascinated by Chinese cooking,” Chin told Eater Portland, ahead of YaYa’s opening. “I moved to Portland and said, ‘I’m done with desk jobs; I’m going to pursue my dream.’” He opened that restaurant in June 2021, with the help of seasoned restaurateur Micah Camden and business partner/NFL defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
The restaurant specialized in Cantonese barbecue specifically, with dishes like roast duck and crispy pork belly served alongside fried rice and wontons in chile oil. The restaurant’s sauces were made in house, including the apple hoisin and plum sauce. Over time, the restaurant added dishes like chile-honey duck wings and gua bao buns. It’s unclear what will come out of the Alberta Street kitchen in the future.
“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Chin writes in the Instagram post. “It hurts us deeply that we will no longer be able to provide our customers with our Cantonese BBQ.”