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Henry's Hunan--did it used to be... [San Francisco]

Back in the early 1980's I worked on Nob Hill (the building is now the Ritz-Carlton--my old office is the gift shop!) I used to walk down the hill and have lunch in a place on Kearny, probably near California or Sacramento Streets. it was a hole-in-the-wall, just a counter and one row of tables, and I think it was just called "Hunan." I remember some of the stuff they had on the wall: a photo of the members of The Who eating there, and a review from the New Yorker saying that it was the best Chinese restaurant in the world--period.

Has that little place morphed into all the Henry's Hunan locations? And are they still as good as that little dive used to be? I'll be in town again in a few weeks, and I was hoping to have another good sinus-clearing meal there.

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  1. Yes, that's the one. Henry's Hunan gets mixed reviews here but the other Hunan restaurants in SF like Hunan Homes or Brandy Ho's tend not to get raves either, so it might be worth a stop just for nostaigia's sake.

    Though if you really want to clear your sinuses, go to Lers Ros and order the green papaya salad extra spicy. :)

    -----
    Hunan Homes Restaurant
    622 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

    3 Replies
    1. re: bigwheel042

      Henry's is great. Hunan Homes is Taiwanese, if I recall, and Brandy Ho's is Chinese-American.

      The recipes at Henry's like the smoked ham rice plate have not changed in the past 20 years, although the menu's longer. It's still run by the same family. I like the Sacramento St location DavidT mentions if you're downtown for lunch.

      But if you know Jeff and Eddie, they're now running the Noe Valley location on Church and 29th. Cousins are running the other outposts.

      -----
      Hunan Homes Restaurant
      622 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

      1. re: Windy

        The smoked ham rice plate at the Noe Valley location is quite delicious. Nice to know that it's an old family recipe!

        1. re: Pei

          On the lunch menu at Bryant street, it was rice plate #1 (of a total of 4). I have trouble ordering anything else.

    2. There is a Henry's Hunan on Sacramento Street, just east of Kearny. The vibe in that place is pretty close to the original where you used to go. There is a counter where you can sit and watch the cooks with their woks. There are much larger Henry's Hunans north of Broadway and south of Market.

      http://www.henryshunanrestaurant.com/

      1. I like the branch on Sansome, decent draft beer selection. Some more history:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/23772

        9 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Oh what a wonderful thread, Robert, thank you for linking it. Hunan was one of my favorite haunts back in the 80s. I hope it has Diana's Special in it! Plus there was a fantastic chilled eggplant dish there I love.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Diana's Special and the eggplant salad are still on the menu.

            This guy famously ate every dish on the menu:

            http://greasepig.com/henrys/

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Does anyone know what's in the DIana's Special besides the deep fried pancakes, meat sauce and shredded lettuce? Is there something creamy/dairy'ish in there, too?

              My cookbook arrived, and it has the chilled eggplant salad, so I'm thrilled. The $8 I spent on the book is justified by that recipe alone. But, it doesn't have Diana's special. I'm wondering if I can assemble it from the components in the book, which has onion cake appetizer: "cakes" similarish to tortillas (which he recommends as an alternative), with a thin layer of onion spread in between. There's also a recipe for noodles with meat (pork) sauce. I think I could fry the pancakes (omitting the onion spread of course), use the meat sauce, and add shredded lettuce.

              But, is there also something creamy/dairy-like in DIana's special? I can't remember...

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I don't think there's any dairy, just lots of pork fat and oil. The greasepig.com "journey through the menu" item on Diana's Meat Pie says it's the same meat sauce as in the Noodles with Pork Meat Sauce and Vegetables and Bean Curd with Meat Sauce.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Okay, good to know. If' it's just lots of pork fat and oil, I've got it covered!

                  That link to greasepig's journey was very helpful because it confirmed, as you point out, that the meat sauce is the same as on the noodles, which recipe is in the book.

                  For some reason, something I read somewhere said there was something creamy in there, too, but that just doesn't make any sense. I don't personally remember any dairy, though it's been a long time since I've had a Diana's special. Maybe 10 years?

                  Anyway, thanks! I'm so glad this thread popped up.

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Answers my question as well. I have the book so I will have to look again at the meat sauce recipe. It didn't strike me as the same sauce but perhaps I am attributing one of the other ingredients in the dish to the sauce. I always thought there was almost a peanut butter, or maybe miso, flavor - maybe even ground sesame seed. I'll give it a try.

                    1. re: tomatoaday

                      I think the extra ingredient in the meat pie is parmesean cheese. I'm not kidding.

                      1. re: fredocorleone

                        That defies logic, but it's certainly possible! I wonder if they'd tell you if you called and asked.

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: fredocorleone

                          HAHAHAHA! You are absolutely correct: Parm Cheese. It doesn't take a whole lot of sleuthing, as it turns out.

                          Per their online menu: Diana's Special Meat Pie
                          Deep-fried flour cakes filled with meat sauce, Parmesan cheese, vegetables, onions and condiments (with or without hot sauce).

                          http://www.henryshunanrestaurant.com/...

                          ~TDQ

            2. I've been going to Henry's since the 70's. I do think there is a difference between some of the restaurants now. The location on Bryant is not great since Jeff left to open the Church St. branch. I would go to either the big one on Sansome St. but if you can go to the Church St. location run by Henry's two grandsons...Eddy and Jeff. Eddy used to be at Natoma St. and as mentioned, Jeff was at Bryant St. I think the food is the best there and they go out of their way to make you feel welcome. They also have the best cooks in the family in my opinion.
              If you're really nostalgic...you can look for a copy of Henry's cookbook which is long out of print but has his recipes...Green Apple Books often has one albeit expensive.

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              Henry's Hunan
              1708 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94131

              3 Replies
              1. re: cakebaker

                Oh I had no idea he had a cookbook! Heading to Amazon right now.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: cakebaker

                  I have a copy of Henry's cookbook that I bought in the 70s at the Sansome location. There's a line in it about heating the oil in the wok that goes something like "you can't have the oil too hot, just not hot enough" (that's from long-ago memory). I took that literally with an electric range and flat-bottom wok and the next thing I knew I had a roaring oil fire in the wok. After a millisecond of wondering if I could smother the fire and imagining the consequences if that didn't work I grabbed the fire extinguisher at hand and used it. Quite a mess to clean up.

                  1. re: cakebaker

                    Also you can find the book at Omnivore Books.

                  2. You're probably thinking of the Sacramento Street branch. The original Hunan was on Kearny nr. Jackson, and was gone by the early 80's.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: soupçon

                      I believe the original branch was open until the building was condemned after the 1989 earthquake.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Now that you mention it, I think you are right. The Sansome street branch became the "home" branch when it opened, but the Kearny St. branch lingered on.