Restaurant Review: Hunan

I was never really wowed by Chinese food. Nothing about it excited me. It wasn’t something that I craved or found myself suggesting for a dinner option.

And then I went to Hunan.

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Gluten-Free Spring Rolls, off-menu and courtesy of the chef

Hunan Restaurant was originally established in nearby Strafford, PA  in 1973. When the business outgrew the location in 1976, it was moved to Ardmore, PA where it’s still going strong. Serving authentic Hunan cuisine, the restaurant is a staple of the Main Line community.

On the outside, Hunan is a very unassuming restaurant with an simple sign and understated exterior. The inside is fresh, airy, and scrupulously clean. Beautiful, food inspired paintings adorn the downstairs walls (I haven’t been upstairs yet!) and soft music plays in the background. Hunan certainly isn’t as noisy or embellished as many   other Chinese restaurants that I’ve gone to.

The menu is pretty typical of Chinese restaurants, though it is smaller – and, that’s a good thing! Often, I find that smaller, more focused menus tend to be indicative of a restaurant and chef/owner that know what they’re about. This is certainly not always the case, but it seems to be that way more often than not. Plus, less choices are better for someone like me who just wants to eat everything.

Anyway. Let’s talk food.

Dinner starts with pickled cucumbers and red peppers. The pickles are addictive: sweet, tangy, and just the right amount of salt. As I mentioned earlier, the menu isn’t very large, but there is a nice variety (with a slight emphasis on spicy foods, as befits Hunan cuisine).  The Dude and I have been there a few times and like to get 3 entrees to share: 2 meaty things and one vegetable dish (to serve as a side). We’ve eaten a number of things over our visits (including sauteed kale in garlic sauce, chengdu lamb with mint and cumin, and steak with eggplant) and everything has been wonderful, but I want to take extra time to write about three of our favorites:

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Foreground: Steak with Eggplant Background: Braised String Beans with Minced Pork

Braised String Beans with Minced Pork:
After his first bite, The Dude deemed this “the only way to eat green beans”, and I can’t say I disagree. Braised until crisp tender in a perfectly salty, slightly spicy sauce, the fresh beans are the star of the show. The crispy minced pork in the dish complements the naturally sweet beans perfectly.

General Tso’s Chicken:
Though not a traditional Chinese dish, General Tso’s chicken is a staple on many American Chinese menus and Hunan’s version is by far the best I’ve ever had. Equally spicy and sweet, the chicken is crisp and perfectly tender. Please note that this is one of the few dishes that cannot be made gluten-free (which means I get to eat the whole thing myself!).

Shrimp with Shiitake Mushrooms:
I love seafood, but I tend to shy away from getting it until I know how well (or not) a restaurant can prepare food. When improperly prepared, seafood dishes tend to be the most disappointing. Luckily, the seafood dishes at Hunan are expertly prepared. The shrimp with shiitake mushrooms is an absolute must for shrimp and mushroom lovers. Covered in a delicate white sauce, the shrimp are sweet, succulent, and perfectly cooked. Instead of fine shreds of shiitakes that are the norm in most preparations, Hunan cuts them in large, meaty chunks, allowing their earthiness to really come through.

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Daily Special: Sauteed Kale in Garlic Sauce

Hunan has quickly become one of our favorite local restaurants. I can’t wait until our next trip; I’m determined to be hungry enough for dessert.

Special Dietary Note: The Dude follows a gluten-free diet, and many things on the Hunan’s menu can be prepared gluten-free.

Website: http://hunan-ardmore.com/index.html
Address: 47 East Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, PA, 19003
Telephone Number: 610.642.3050

 

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