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Hunan Manor: real Hunanese in Murray Hill?

Some Chinese news: Hunan House in Flushing ( http://www.chow.com/restaurants/50064... ), a big favorite around here ( http://www.chow.com/digest/7642/in-fl... ), just opened a branch called Hunan Manor on Lexington near 39th. Didn't try it but took a menu, which includes authentic dishes.

Hunan House confirms the opening on Facebook ( http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hunan-H... ). Chinese-literate hounds can read all about it in the World Journal ( http://nyyp.worldjournal.com/view/ful... ). Looking forward to fish head with mashed peppers in Murray Hill!

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Hunan Manor
339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

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  1. wow very interesting. a real hunan restaurant in murray hill would be revelatory

    1. Thanks squid kun, closed today and tomorrow but a welcome addition indeed!

      1. wow this would be awesome, thanks for the heads up!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lau

          we should organize a chowhound dinner here

        2. Oh boy oh boy oh boy!!! This is the best news in ages. Thanks for pointing it out.

          1. I passed it the other day and wondered what it was like. The spot used to be a Thai restaurant. Look forward to trying this new place. Recommendations???

            12 Replies
            1. re: comiendosiempre

              Same owner (Alan Li) so I assume he has the same menu as his Flushing Hunan House. Here's the OB thread on HH that might give you some ideas:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/612697

              1. re: scoopG

                i ate here last week. it actually was pretty terrible. i much prefer mapo tofu across the street.

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                Mapo Tofu
                338 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                  1. re: jon

                    Terrible? Why was that? Can you compare it to other Sichuan restaurants you've been to?

                    1. re: jon

                      I think it's unfair to expect a Hunan restaurant to excel at Sichuan dishes as your response seems to imply (something akin to expecting a French restaurant serve great Spanish food). However, I'm also curious about what dishes you actually tried.

                      1. re: Cheeryvisage

                        apologies for conflating the two cousines, but considering that the menu for mapo tofu and hunan house are nearly identical, down to the same pictures, font, and menu items on both of their menus, we actually thought we had walked in to a standard chinese restaurant just trying to catch the overflow lunch crowds from mapo tofu by offering the same food.

                        in any event, i had ordered shredded beef with spicy green peppers and what they brought out instead was pepper steak with onions, which was a gloppy starch-ified mess. my pal's chicken with spring onion was no better. in addition, the soup dumplings were gummy and off-tasting and didn't even contain any soup. add to that very very slow service and a lunch menu which, for some reason is $7 on the takeout menu but $8.95 on their in-house menu (again, mimicking mapo tofu for price), and this was disappointing, not that i was really expecting much to begin with, especially since i did not know the lineage of the restaurant.

                        perhaps we ordered wrong and perhaps you can't make assumptions based on a set lunch menu, but frankly, based on our two dishes and the subpar and frankly embarrassing soup dumplings, i wouldn't go back.

                        1. re: jon

                          Wow, they do sound awful. I generally find if you order things from Chinese restaurants that are not of their regional specialty, all bets are off in terms of the tastiness of the dishes.

                          But, both shredded beef with green chili peppers and chicken with spring onion sound like general "pan-China" dishes. Any place worth their salt should be able to serve up their own interpretation of these dishes with decent results. It's strange that an off-shoot location of a well regarded restaurant messed them up so badly.

                          I'd forgive them on the soup dumplings though, not at all "Hunan" or "pan-China". This is a Shanghai specialty dish.

                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                            If Hunan Manor is anything like Hunan House in Flushing (both owned by Alan Li) there are no pan-Asian, American-Chinese or non Hunan dishes on the menu. That said, the special lunch menu might cater to a quick-bite midtown crowd.

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                            Hunan Manor
                            339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                          2. re: jon

                            Stopped in and this place is the real deal Hunan - in Manhattan anyway. And the menu is not "nearly identical" to Mapo Tofu across the street. Mapo Tofu's menu is actually much more extensive.

                            The owners are connected by family to Alan Li's Hunan House in Flushing. Alan's sister (Diana) and cousin (Nancy Xiao) are behind the till here.

                            They only opened on August 16th. I did notice that yes, there do seem to be some dishes with two different prices on the in-house vs take-out menu as well as different wording.

                            And jon - soup dumplings can vary widely. Different Chinese cuisines seem to offer their own versions (Henan, Fujian) without any soup!

                            Will be back here ASAP to check it out in more detail - and I suggest avoiding the set lunch menu and order instead off the main menu. Perhaps at lunch they want to cater to the select office workers, main dish lunch crowd: #19 please, then choose: soup or soda or egg roll.

                            1. re: scoopG

                              no offense, but what is a soup dumpling without any soup?

                              what did you end up getting and what do you recommend?

                              1. re: jon

                                These dishes can easily morph into something different when they leave the home province. Henan Fengwei claims that American pork is so much leaner than Chinese pork and that's why their dumplings have so little soup. Amazing 66 in Chinatown does a Cantonese version of Kung Pao Chicken that has celery in it - a sacrilege to a Sichuan purist. At HM I had Chairman Mao's Red-Braised Pork. Am returning with a larger group and will report more fully later!

                          3. re: Cheeryvisage

                            I beg to differ. Beef shred with hot green pepper is as authentic as it gets. The problem was is that it was somehow replaced with a generic pan-Gaean dish (pepper steak) of unknown quality.

                    2. I also think ma po tofu is pretty good. Good name sake dish and a very good pork with eggplant. Great for lunch.

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                      Mapo Tofu
                      338 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: comiendosiempre

                        That's nice, but it seems Mapo Tofu is a Sichuan restaurant. Hunan has its own cuisine and this is the only totally Hunan place I know of in Manhattan. Will get there next weeekend.

                        1. re: comiendosiempre

                          Perhaps I need to re-visit Mapo Tofu again. My visit was unimpressive compared to Szechuan Gourmet.
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/710598

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                          Szechuan Gourmet
                          21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                          Mapo Tofu
                          338 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                        2. Thank you. This place is centrally located for me. I will have to check it out!! The Chinese news article stated that they make their own smoked meats so I guess I will have to check that out. I am sure that many of you will be going there before me. If you happen to order their smoked meat dishes, can you let me know if it is very salty? Thanks.

                          1. squid kun, the Steamed Fish Head with Chopped Chilies awaits your inspection!

                            The positive news is that Hunan Manor has some capital Hunan dishes in its lineup and if you stick to those you’ll do just fine. They have some of the essential Hunan smoked/preserved meats (beef, pork and duck) and pork knuckle but only one lamb dish and no lotus root or smoked tofu dishes.

                            The downside is plenty of American-Chinese clunkers like General Tso’s (Chicken or Prawn), Sesame Chicken and Beef with Broccoli. Hunan Manor also has 4-5 Sichuan dishes on the menu, perhaps a nod to Mapo Tofu across the street. (The only Sichuan dish that I know of that has migrated to Hunan is Mapo Tofu.)

                            They have a special lunch menu of 41 items; all but three are $7.00 and include soup or egg roll and rice. About 70% of the dishes on this menu are American-Chinese.

                            Here’s a quick rundown:

                            Pickled Cabbage Hunan Style
                            Simple but virtuous: fresh cabbage quickly pickled and topped with chilies.

                            Ox Tongue and Tripe with Spicy Peppery Sauce
                            First-rate, tender pieces of tongue and tripe topped with cilantro.

                            Cold Bean Curd Hunan Style
                            Sliced tofu pieces are flavored with ginger and red peppers. No harm done here.

                            Wood Ears in Vinegar Sauce
                            Very light with tasty bits of garlic and scallions.

                            Chairman Mao’s Red-Braised Pork
                            Irresistible version replete with juicy pork belly chunks, star anise, ginger, garlic, bay leaves and a few mushrooms.

                            Stir-fried Mustard Leaf Hunan Style
                            Here the greens are chopped and sautéed with garlic and chili peppers. Great over rice.

                            Dried White Peppers with Preserved Beef
                            Fully laden with dried peppers, smoked and dried beef, garlic and scallions. Crunchy and not fiendishly hot.

                            Roasted Winter Melon
                            This meatless version missed the ground pork that usually accompanies it.

                            Sautéed Green Peppers with Eggs
                            This Hunan classic is usually made with green bell peppers and scrambled eggs. Here a half-dozen over-hard eggs are served bathed in a piquant chili sauce. An earthly home-style creation.

                            Whole Steamed Fish with Chopped Chilies
                            Fresh Tilapia steamed with pickled and salted chilies. No defects here as this dish went quickly.

                            So what is the connection with Hunan House in Flushing? Hunan Manor is owned by Nancy Xiao (肖) and Diana Li (李). Nancy is a cousin of Alan Li, the owner of Hunan House and Diana is his sister. They’re all from Hengyang (衡陽), Hunan’s second largest city. Yield to the Hunan dishes and you can depart here happy as king.

                            Slideshow:
                            https://picasaweb.google.com/10044644...

                            Hunan Manor
                            339 Lexington Ave. - between 39th and 40th
                            NY, NY 10016
                            Tel: 212-682-2883
                            Fax: 212-682-2992

                            Mon-Fri: 11:30 to 10 pm.
                            Sat-Sun: Noon to 10 pm.

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                            Hunan Manor
                            339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                            7 Replies
                              1. re: kathryn

                                No exotic Chicago (or NY) style cocktails though!

                                1. re: Lau

                                  Curious what you think - although as I recall you were not all that enamored of Hunan House in Flushing, right?

                                  1. re: scoopG

                                    well i only ate there once (so its possible i ordered the wrong things). it was good, i just wasn't blown away by it maybe i set the bar too high since the reviews were glowing. i've been meaning to try it again, but maybe ill try this branch first

                                2. re: scoopG

                                  Excellent - thanks, scoop. From where I sit, in a Midtown office surrounded by interchangeable delis, those photos are cruel and unfair!

                                  1. re: squid kun

                                    The Steamed Fish Head with Chopped Chillies is $20.95 - take some mates and check it out!
                                    Also, as noted, there seem to be two different prices on some dishes between the in-house and take-out menu.

                                3. We were there on Sunday and had the pickled cabbage (excellent), the beef with hot peppers, the lamb ditto (this was the better of the two, lots of cilantro), and the pickled beans with ground pork with bean curd skin (translated incorrectly, it was mung bean starch noodles). This last was the best dish, the contrast of flavors and textures was gorgeous. Not a proper Chinese meal but good. Based on these dishes, Hunan House in Flushing has the advantage, but this is a very comfortable restaurant and we will be back to try more dishes and cooking methods.

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                                  Hunan Manor
                                  339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    The pickled bean/ground pork/mung bean noodle dish is wonderful! We ordered takeout a while back, and that plus the mustard greens made a great dinner. We also got fish, which was called something like "fish in red peppers soup" on the receipt. That was a blind order (I asked the very patient woman I spoke with to recommend something with fish), and while it was very generously portioned and the broth was very flavorful I wasn't too fond of it due to the fish itself. I assume it was tilapia, and it tasted horrible – like getting a mouthful of potting soil. It went way beyond any farmed fish muddiness I've experienced in the past and ruined what would have been a very tasty dish. Gross fish aside, we loved our meal and are looking forward to trying more of the menu.

                                  2. We'll miss Red Curry, the Thai place that was there. We loved their soups.
                                    We've been to Mapo Tofu many times and love it.
                                    Can't wait to try Hunan House and compare. It's just 2 blocks from our home.

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                                    Mapo Tofu
                                    338 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                    1. Dinner Saturday night was excellent!! Unfortunately there were only two of us so we could not try too many dishes.
                                      Pickled spicy cabbage was excellent and spicy!
                                      Dan dan noodles were very good.
                                      Sliced fish Hunan was tasty and perfectly prepared.
                                      The blue crab Hunan style was the best I have had in ages.
                                      The menu was 99% Hunan with one "American/Chinese" page with Gen Tsao' etc..
                                      Very different menu from Mapo Tofu across the street. We also like Mapo Tofu.

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                                      Mapo Tofu
                                      338 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                      Hunan Manor
                                      339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                      1. Been here twice - the latest being an expansive lunch - and tried many of the dishes recommended in this thread. All were very good to excellent. Even the standard cold cucumber dish had a distinct, picked twist to it.

                                        One of the owners saw the food I had ordered yesterday and was impressed that I was ordering the Hunan food (I'm guessing most non-Chinese customers are ordering the Chinese-American stuff) and asked if I had read about the restaurant on Chowhound. Guilty, I said.

                                        I have to say, as great as the explosion of available Chinese cuisine styles in Flushing and Brooklyn is - and it is great - I think one of most exciting developments in NYC's Chinese cuisine over the last 25 years or so is the sprouting of non-Chinese-American restaurants in Manhattan neighborhoods outside Chinatown. Sure, it's mostly Sichuan (and now, Hunan) places, but where could you get this type of authentic, regional food near Grand Central a generation ago? The UWS or the UES? You could probably count the total number of places on one hand.

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                                        Hunan Manor
                                        339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                        1. Fantastic lunch there today -- and thoughtful service, we were asked if we wanted to wait for our dishes because the duo jiao yu (fish with pickled peppers) we ordered would take about 25 mins (had they been brought right out we would have been too full to enjoy the fish, which would have been a terrible waste).
                                          Pickled cabbage was brought right away, and provided nice preprandial bites (LOVE theirs).
                                          About 20 mins later, the beef with pickled cabbage casserole, the mung bean sheets with ground pork and pickled green beans, and the green beans with eggplant -- and lots of ginger -- appeared. The veg was a nice foil to the spicy stuff, but wasn't killer (even though it photographed best of any of the dishes).
                                          The star of the show was the whole fish with pickled peppers, which was fabulous, as good as any version I've had here (outshined only by a turbot with same in Shanghai, which was so fresh it still had the gooey stuff on its fins). Ate every scrap of flesh on its bones. Nice head meat too.
                                          Photos do not do the food justice.
                                          We went a bit pickle-mad, and I regretted not having ordered the beef with hot peppers that has tons of cilantro in it, but all the dishes were delicious.
                                          If you love spicy Chinese food, hie thee to Hunan Manor...

                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            I too was there over the weekend and agree - they are on tip of their game right now.

                                            1. re: scoopG

                                              Great to hear some positive recent reports. My last couple of experiences weren't that good (I've done takeout/delivery many times in the past year) so I was worried about them going downhill. Glad to see that's not the case.

                                              1. re: churros

                                                Just ordered takeout a few days ago and the food was as good as ever. Got the dried bean curd with preserved meat, blue crabs hunan style, and chairman mao's red-braised pork. All were excellent. Glad to have Hunan Manor as a Chinese delivery option along with our regular Szechuan haunts (Lan Sheng, Szechuan Gourmet, Cafe China).

                                                1. re: churros

                                                  You lucky thing. Must try those crabs.

                                          2. We had lunch with 4 fellow travellers there yesterday and the food was roundly enjoyed by all (nothing was left over).
                                            We had pickled cabbage, fried dumplings, firm doufu with a hot sauce as appetizers; water spinach with garlic, a whole fish with pickled chilis, smoked duck, the mung bean noodle with ground pork and pickled green beans thing I love, beef with onions, scallions, and hot peppers, eel with cucumbers, cumin lamb, and Hunan crabs (great, but crackers would be useful). I brought butter tarts for dessert and we shared them with the staff (they even washed my pan for me!). Service was excellent. $44 pp with a number of Tsingtaos and a good tip.

                                              1. re: scoopG

                                                Did you notice that "Lao Dong Bei" is recommended as a similar restaurant? Say...what?

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      Still missing it on their website....

                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                          Similar? No, I mean, the places is seriously good.

                                                          The caveat? you'd better speak and look Chinese--or risk being told that they are out of something that is being served to a neighboring table. (I noticed that happen a few times--people can be loud while ordering.)

                                                          Great food though: as much as I like Sichuan Gourmet I think this place has an edge.

                                                          1. re: diprey11

                                                            I've been to this restaurant at least 10 times and I am the least Chinese-looking person you could possibly imagine. I have never had the slightest problem getting exactly what I want. My point was that comparing this to Lao Dong Bei (as I saw on the website) was ridiculous inasmuch as the 2 cuisines are about as different as they could possibly be...as you would expect given the distance of appx 900 miles between the areas...and one being landlocked and the other being not.

                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                              I personally never had a problem either. But the dining room is small enough I have witnessed at least two such situations within maybe 3-4 weeks (I eat there often) and I stand by my words.

                                                              I totally agree with you that cuisines are sufficiently different and I have a very short attention span as long as NYT reviews of Chinese restaurants go.

                                                              1. re: diprey11

                                                                The only people in NYC English-language media who were ever good at Chinese and other Asian cuisines were Ruth Reichl (I don't like her at all, but she had a feeling for the cuisines) and Sylvia Carter, who was at Newsday.

                                                          2. re: buttertart

                                                            http://www.nytimes.com/restaurants/12... -- where it now shows similar cuisine Royal Seafood on Mott (again, hardly similar), it showed Lao Dong Bei when I opened the link yesterday. I suppose "simliar cuisine" is construed to mean "any Chinese restaurant serving whatever Chinese cuisine we can rotate into this spot".

                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                              >I suppose "similar cuisine" is construed to mean "any Chinese restaurant serving whatever Chinese cuisine we can rotate into this spot".

                                                              Looks like an auto-link. A minute ago it was Cafe China (closer but no cigar). I'd pay it about as much attention as Times staff apparently did, i.e. zero.

                                                               
                                                1. Was weighing my lunch options when I saw this thread so I got delivery:

                                                  Pickled Cabbage – Was ok but it’s a personal preference I guess. I like my pickled cabbage more sour than salty and this batch was more salty than sour.

                                                  Ox Tongue and Tripe with Spicy Peppery Sauce – a nice rendition

                                                  white pepper smoked duck with dried turnips – I tried to order this but they called and said they were out of peppers. There must have been a lot of people reading this thread over the weekend!

                                                  dried white peppers with preserved beef – apparently this uses the same peppers that they ran out of.

                                                  Chairman Mao’s Red-Braised Pork – This was a replacement dish and much better than I expected. The chunks of pork just melt in your mouth.

                                                  Stir-Fried Chicken with Roasted Chili Peanut – I like Kung Pao chicken but this version had celery and used white meat chicken.

                                                  Beef Flank In Casserole – My second replacement dish and also much better than I expected. The beef was tender. The flavors were great, it very similar to the braised pork and slightly spicy.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                                                    Here's hoping for mashed eggplant and chilies (擂辣椒茄子)...

                                                  2. The review in the NYT...why don't they get someone who knows Chinese food??? There is no.rice.vinegar or even the barest taste of rice vinegar in the Hunan pickled cabbage, it's fermented with salt. For crying out loud!