Beijing native Yiling Cui moved to Wisconsin to attend college and then came to Santa Cruz in the ’90s to work in agriculture and be part of the organic farming movement. Now she is co-owner of the newly opened Four Streams Kitchen in Aptos—named after an area where four rivers merge in China’s Sichuan basin. Though Cui had never worked in the restaurant industry before, she invested in Four Streams—she even brokered the sale of the building—because she believed in Mei, the owner, and Chen, the chef. She says the famously spicy cuisine is fresh and made using high-quality ingredients.
Menu highlights include the hot and spicy Sichuan Boiled Fish, a signature regional dish. The lemon chicken is also popular, as are the garlic string beans. Other best-sellers are the broccoli and Mongolian beef and the sizzling seafood soup. Starters include classic egg and spring rolls, chicken salad and crab Rangoon.
Hours are 11am-9pm daily (open till 9:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays) for dining in or carry-out. GT asked Cui about Mei and Chen and her vision for their new restaurant.
What made you believe in Mei and Chen?
YILING CUI: Chen was my previous client, and I knew he was a very hard worker. He was trained in China to be a chef and had owned a restaurant in Monterey. Mei is another hard worker, she’s always willing and capable, and she wanted the American dream, so I wanted to help her achieve that. I believe everybody comes to this country just needing an opportunity. When I came here 40 years ago, others did that for me, so I wanted to do that for someone else.
What is Four Streams’ mission?
We try very hard to meet the locals’ tastes and preferences and have every customer leave full and satisfied by not only our food but our service as well. We are about serving the locals, making sure our food is healthy and delicious and promoting quality organic ingredients in our kitchen. For our first six months in business, we’ve gotten good feedback. People seem to really want good Chinese food locally.
Four Streams Kitchen,7960 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 831-685-2121; fourstreamskitchen.com.