Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. Prices: Dinner for two with appetizers, drinks and dessert costs about $30 including tax and tip. Cards: Visa, MasterCard, Choice.
Dinner at Hunan Village isn't likely to delight you or surprise you, but it won't upset you either. The cooking here is dependably average -- seldom rising above or sinking below it.
Hunan Village has more than food going for it, however. The waitresses are gracious, the dining room has a good spirit -- families with small children and couples seem to feel equally comfortable here -- and the prices are decent.
If you've been looking forward all week to going out for dinner, Hunan Village probably won't be the answer. But if you decide on the spur of the moment to meet some friends or take out the family, more for the camaraderie than for the food, you'll probably enjoy it.
Most of the dishes taste pretty good if you try them on their own -- especially some of the spiciest ones such as twice cooked pork with lots of cabbage; chicken with garlic sauce with broccoli and bamboo shoots; a special of the day, lamb for two seasons with black fungus; a platter of big fried chunks of tofu, tossed with Chinese cabbage (spicy bean curd family style), and a mild, soothing "double delicacies" in bird's nest, shrimp and scallops and vegetables in a crisp fried potato basket. The meats are always tender and quickly cooked, and the sauces aren't too thick (although occasionally they're too greasy).
But the main trick at Hunan Village is to figure out how to order a table full of dishes that don't taste almost exactly the same. This is one of the most persistent problems we've been finding at medium-priced Chinese restaurants: the kitchen has a narrow repertoire of flavors, either "hot & spicy" or not "hot & spicy," and practically every dish in the same category tastes like all the rest. At a recent dinner, for instance, we closed our eyes and slurped the sauces from lamb, chicken and tofu dishes, and had a hard time telling them apart. Even Hunan shrimp sauce tasted similar.
We said the quality of the cooking seldom strays from average. There are a few exceptions, for better and worse. For better: get the roast Yuling Duck. You'll have to pull off a lot of fat, but the meat underneath is delicious, roasty and moist. Also, order Satay beef from among the appetizers -- unusually good (and unusual) with a strong cumin flavor. For worse: beware of the crispy whole fish, Szechuan style, which on a recent night was post-frozen mushy and buried under that all-too-familiar gluey red sauce.
Hunan Village seems to do a brisk carry-out business. We've been having a fling with carry-out dinners lately, after years of forgetting how wonderful they can be. You can choose your own music, slouch in a chair or sprawl on the carpet, wear a suit or a bathrobe -- and then, perhaps best of all, when you've swallowed the last sleepy bite you don't have to go outside in the cold and drive home.
Call Hunan Village a good hour ahead for big orders.