Szechuan/Hunan in Palo Alto?
Hunan Garden is your best bet in Palo Alto. The Hunan dishes are a small part of the menu, but most things we have tried are done well. I would stick to the specials and the Hunan dishes for your first visit.
Trend is the closest good Szechuan that I know to Palo Alto.
3345 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306
400 Moffett Blvd, Mountain View, CA
Mmm, tasty human.
Give Jade Palace a try. http://www.chow.com/places/5377 Melanie's been happy with it, I've tried it a few times quiet happily. It's cantonese / shanghai, but it's good, and they do OK with non-cantonese dishes. If you don't like it, you're not out much green.
The places on university avenue aren't *really good*. They are surprisingly passable. There's some commentary that the new chef at Tai Pan might be better than the old.
Recommended Trend is pretty good down home Sichuan - I'd have to say the best close to PA, although once you're in MV there are some other options. I don't have any Hunan recs, sorry.
How about Szechaun in nearby Mountain View?
The Szechaun restaurant recently started a buffet. I've been there several times for buffet lunch, but not dinner. Lunch is 7.99 and dinner for 12.99. Neighbor has told me that there isn't much more food dinner time except a crab which was rather dry, so, lunch is definitely the value and time to go. Go early for lunch around - 11 to 11:30, as they're not too good at replenishing when food trays are consumed. Buffet consists of about 8 salad/appetizsers, 20 main dishes, some assorted dim sum, 6 noodle/rices, three soups and assorted fruits. Lots of vraieties to sample.
It's the Trend Restaurant at 400 Moffett Blvd (between 101 and Central Expressway).