Hours: Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 9:30 p.m.
Price range: From $4.95 to $14. Most dishes around $6.
Reservations: Suggested for more than four people.
Credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard.
Special features: Double-door entrance; highchairs and booster seats; parking lot.
Having a neighborhood Chinese restaurant is like having a good friend. Life becomes so simple, so uncomplicated.
With Szechuan and Hunan Taste, friendship is limited to uncomplicated communication, efficient service, large portions and reasonable prices. If it's stylish decor you seek, then realize this restaurant is from the old school: a few simple wall hangings, two rooms filled with wall-hugging booths and closely spaced tables, a little faint music.
Although a number of older reviews are posted outside, the new owners have been here for more than two years and have developed their own loyal following. As the name implies, you can sample dishes from both Hunan and Szechuan provinces and supplement them with traditional favorites.
A word of caution, however. Although we requested mild seasonings, they proved overwhelming for the 10-year-old boys. Neither soft drinks, water nor tea would quench the fires. We hurriedly requested another main dish, a plain, mild standby, that came within minutes and cooled their tongues.
Although the children were eager to begin dinner with a pu pu tray, they were unaccustomed to some of its offerings: meat rolls and fried green beans replaced the more traditional beef satay and crab rangoon.
We decided the boys would be much happier with another choice, and eight fried won tons ($1.75) proved a good selection. They were light, crisp and freshly fried.
Instead of an appetizer, our son selected a soup. He waited through our dan dan noodles ($2.25), which were wonderfully spicy but not too greasy, but the soup did not come.
How the waiter managed to get the rest of the orders clear was remarkable, as he had written nothing down and just nodded as we ordered and made adjustments. He was quite disappointed in himself when we reminded him about the two soups.
The egg drop soup (75 cents) and hot and sour soup ($1) both arrived boiling hot and needed a cooling off period. Yet our dinners arrived within minutes. The soups, served in large bowls rather than small cups, therefore received little attention.
We ordered governor's chicken ($5.95), orange beef ($6.25) and saute'ed string beans ($4.55). When the seasonings proved too strong for the children, we also ordered beef with snow peas ($6.25).
The Szechuan selections demonstrated careful seasoning combined with appropriate flavoring. The surprise dish of the evening was the green beans. The dried, quickly fried string beans would make an attractive appetizer: their crunchiness is almost addictive.
Governor's chicken was similar to kung pao chicken, with small pieces of poultry and spiced peanut halves.
The orange beef with green pepper slices was too unwieldly for chopsticks or even a fork. The caramelized pieces were too large and needed to be quartered or sliced. Likewise, the chewy, tough texture was not consistent with the other beef dish.
The beef with snow peas was a generous portion of both meat and vegetable. Actually, the contrast with the spicier dishes was so severe that it tasted underseasoned and needed generous helpings of soy sauce.
Even with our extra course, our dinner for four, including tax and tip, was $39.32.