Restaurant: Hunan Style Restaurant
Location: 529 E Valley Blvd. Ste 108A. San Gabriel, CA 91776. (626) 288-0758
Date: August 4, 2013
Cuisine: Hunan Chinese
Rating: Great Authentic Hunan
The San Gabriel Valley is packed with hundreds of examples of regional Chinese restaurants. Would that I could try them all.
Hunan Style offers up the hearty spicy cuisine of the Chinese heartland in the typical unassuming format of this vast array of strip malls.
This is clearly a place that does NOT cater to the tourist crowd as it doesn’t even bother to advertise its name in English, or the menu for the most part!
But fortunately, one of our vast (18ish) party speaks not only fluent Chinese, but the Hunan dialect.
It’s traditional in China to offer up cold appetizers before the meal proper and Hunan Style has a big case of them. Check out these poultry parts!
And mood interesting delicacies.
2010 Cantina Terlan Pinot Bianco Terlano Riserva Vorberg.
As usual, we bring wines (and to this kind of place, stems). There is no corkage!
We start with a bean curd with peppers (everything in Hunan has peppers). This was very pleasant, with only a mild heat.
2001 Cottonwood Canyon Chardonnay. In great shape, this older (for Ca Chard) wine tasted a tad like a Montrachet.
2011 Domaine Daniel Dampt et Fils Chablis 1er Cru Les Lys. Burghound 92. This offers even more classic Chablis character with its expressive and airy nose of oyster shell, sea breeze and mineral reduction. There is fine detail to the solidly precise, intense and racy flavors that exude a fine minerality on the tension-filled, saline and balanced finish. This understated effort is textbook Les Lys.
These duck necks were cured, tasty, and spicier. Like Chinese slim jims!
From my cellar, 2009 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese. 94 points. Enticing aromas of apricot pit, guava and mint leaf. Creamy, almost sweet tropical fruits tantalize the palate. Spicy, refined and mineral-driven on the finish. A beautiful wine for a summer afternoon on the patio.
And this jellyfish and “beef” (think pastrami) was awesome.
1983 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese. 94-96 points. This is just spectacular right now. There’s a prominent forestal herbal/pine needle element here that brings Grünhaus to mind, along with layers of mature Mosel fruit and florality, smokiness and mineral elements that all come together seamlessly on the nose and palate. So complex, fragrant, impeccably balanced with a gentle creaminess and faint sweetness on the palate matched by bright acids, and just a fantastic bottle of Riesling.
Sadly, our bottle was corked.
I was not so enamored of the trotters, although many people liked them. The whole idea kind of bothers me.
This chicken soup was surprisingly good. It’s really just a classic Chinese… chicken soup, with a salty rich broth made by cooking down the chicken parts like forever. It’s mild.
2011 Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh Vineyard. Not bad for fake (not Burgundy) Pinot Noir. Too young of course.
This chicken hot pot was not. But it was very tasty. Similar in style to the Wuhan hot pot place we tried, this included ALL the chicken in true Chinese style. I mean, all the chicken: bones, beak, feet, etc.
Spicy shredded potato. Tasty, with a vinegar tang. Like a twisted hunan potato salad!
2010 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir San Andreas Fault. 91 points. Very austere upon opening and needed about 30 minutes to relax. Nose is tart cherry, strawberry, reses, violets with some vanilla. Palate is tight, austere, med to light palate weight, earthy and vegetal. Definitely some whole cluster fermentation here (was described as cinnamon-hots candy). This is a cool and lean wine with good alcohol balance, good acidity although I thought was a little green, lead pencil and tasted somewhat under ripe for my taste.
Corn porridge. This is supposed to “cool” you off. We all hated it, as it’s so bland as to be gross.
2011 Matanzas Creek Winery Sauvignon Blanc. 87 points. It offers a nice combination of crisp citrus fruit, kiwi and field grasses, all adorned by a dollop of oak. Medium-bodied, it carries its freshness and well-integrated alcohol (13.5%) throughout a solid middle palate and lengthy finish. While not necessarily a favorite of those who prefer light-styled, un-oaked Sauvignon or those who favor heavily-oaked white wine offerings.
This is the hunan classic, Yu Tou? Anyway, it’s giant fish head in chilis. The sauce is awesome (spicy of course). There was really nice soft tofu in there too. He fish itself is very good, but there is relatively little meat an a lot of bones and cartilage. That’s the way the Chinese like it (more flavor).
1978 Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. Not in bad shape for a wine that was never intended to make this kind of age. Bitter and thick on the finish. The problem is, that with such spicy food all one could taste is the bitterness. I personally think sweet wines like the Rieslings are the only way to go with spicy.
Spicy green beans with ground pork? Tasty for sure.
This cabbage was arguably the best cabbage I’ve every had. There had to be some kind of meat fat in the sauce.
2010 Anakena Carménère. 83 points. Colour: cloudy purple, almost magenta at edges. Nose, strangely enough, bolgnase sauce and damp cardboard. Palate well oversweet but sharp at the back of the throat. in-descriptively fruity. weird, even for a really cheap wine.
Cumin lamb. Very nice with understated cumin and plenty of chilies.
2010 Malibu Rocky Oaks Syrah. What little I could taste through the heat wasn’t bad, for a young Cal Syrah (I prefer Hermitage).
Cold marinated duck. Smoky and really tasty.
This dish, apparently, is NEVER done anywhere else in america. It’s some kind of incredibly bitter vegetable with a sweet “bacon.” The mean was awesome, just awesome, like blueberry candied bacon. The vegetable was, as advertised, extremely bitter. Together they made an interesting combo.
1999 Château Guiraud. IWC 90. Pale yellow-gold. Lower-toned aromas of orange zest, herbs, spices, earth and vanillin oak. Textured, rich and sweetly oaky, with notes of vanilla and creme caramel Showing plenty of personality today. Ripe and rich for young Guiraud. Big but essentially gentle, with an impressive, slow-building finish.
Went great with the spice. Along with the Rieslings, was most of what I drank during the later 3/4 of the meal.
I think this was beef, as usual, with chilies.
And for dessert, sweet sticky pumpkin cakes. These had a gooey texture like mochi and a mild pumpkin flavor. There were incredibly hot (temperature) too. Very nice.
Overall, one must compare this to Hunan Chili King across the street. It’s hard to tell which is better, but they’re different. Hunan Style isn’t nearly as hot, but perhaps the dishes are a little more varied. At Chili King everything is DROWNED in chilies, but here there are a lot of distinct flavors. I think we ordered well (thanks to our Hunan friend) this time, so that is a big factor too. Both are pretty great.
After, we went down the street and availed ourself of that awesome San Gabriel tradition, the $15 (an hour) foot massage and then over to a nearby “tea house” for some awesome second dessert.
In this case, this amazing mango shaved ice which mixes ice cream, shave ice, mango, and sweetened condensed milk.
There was also an almond jelly (not pictured) and this passionfruit “slush’ with lychee jelly! Good stuff.
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