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Nov 15, 2011 07:46 PM

Hunan Manor – Excellent Hunan Food in Manhattan and Maybe One of the Best Chinese Restaurants in the New York

**For full post and pics**:

Hunan Manor is owned by the same family that owns the much-heralded Hunan House Restaurant in Flushing. As the name would suggest they specialize in Hunan cuisine. Hunan is a province in China that’s known for its’ spicy food. Its’ cuisine is quite popular in China and probably one of the most well known cuisines. However, despite the fact that you often see Hunan listed on the menus of various Americanized Chinese food places, actual Hunan food is not common in the US.

While it’s tempting to make the analogy that Hunan food is very similar to Sichuan food because it is spicy, I find their food to be quite a bit different. Their food while spicy (“la”) doesn’t have the “ma”, which is the numbing quality that is synonymous with Sichuan food due to the use of Sichuan peppercorns. I also find their food to be on the salty side (in a good way) and there tends to be a lot of cured meats compared to other Chinese cuisines. It is definitely one of my favorite styles of Chinese cooking.

The restaurant is located in the area that seems to be the new mecca for Sichuan cuisines in Manhattan (Murray Hill / Kip’s Bay / Koreatown area) with restaurants such as Szechuan Gourmet, Lan Sheng, Mapo Tofu, Great Sichuan and Grand Sichuan all in this area.

The restaurant is fairly simple with white walls, dark wood furnishings and various Chinese tapestries hanging on the walls. The service is nice and reasonably fast. The owners are very nice and everyone can speak English, however you won’t hear much English as most of the clientele is mainland Chinese.

Here’s what we got:
- Sliced Fish with Pickle Cabbage Soup: This was a soup that had sliced white fish with pickled vegetables in it. I was expecting something much heavier in seasoning and flavor, but it was instead it was quite light. The broth was a nice fish stock, the fish was fresh and cooked perfectly and the pickled vegetables added a really nice dimension to the soup with the slightly sour flavor. This was excellent. 8.25/10
- Sour String Bean Noodles in Soup: This was a rice noodle soup dish with topping that consisting of diced sour string beans, chopped scallions, gingers, red chili and minced pork. The soup broth was slightly spicy and sour. The topping was tasty with sourness from the sour string beans, heat from the chili and saltiness from the other toppings. The rice noodles were decent, but were a bit overcooked. Overall, it was a good dish. 7.75/10 (7.25/10 for noodles, 8.25/10 for everything else
)- Cold Cucumber Salad: This was a simple dish with cold diced cucumbers, minced garlic and red chili in a light sweet soy sauce. I’m a big fan of this style of cold cucumber and they did a nice job here. 8.25/10
- Pumpkin Pancake: This was mashed pumpkin that had been breaded in a panko type crust. The pumpkin was perfectly mashed and sweet and the outside was nicely crispy. The only issue was it was a little too oily, if it has been less oily this would’ve gone from good to excellent. 7.75/10
- Steamed Eggplant with Salty Duck Egg: This was steamed purple eggplant in a light slightly sweet soy sauce topped with minced pork, ground up salted duck yolk, diced scallions and red chili. While it looked heavy it was actually quite light. The eggplant was very tender from being steamed and the slight sweetness of the sauce and the saltiness of the toppings all came together very nicely. This was a very good dish. 8.75/10
- Braised Sliced Beef with Chili Sauce: This was sliced braised beef topped with diced scallions and red chilis in a spicy black bean sauce. The beef was perfectly tender and the sauce was really good, it was salty from the black beans and had spicy from the chili oil. The toppings were salty, but in a really good way and tasted wonderful with white rice. 8.5/10
- Braised Winter Melon: This dish was “hong shao” braised winter melon. “Hong shao” preparation involves braising meat or vegetables in a combo of ginger, garlic, chilis, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine and other spices. This was a strange preparation for me because growing up I always had winter melon either in soup or as part of a dessert, so having it as a braised dish was something quite new to me. The winder melon was cut up into cubes and was very tender. The sauce was very nice, slightly sweet and slightly spicy. I enjoyed this dish a lot. 8.25/10
- Sautéed Preserved Beef with White Chili: This was one of the cured meat dishes I wrote about earlier in the post that I’ve found to be common in Hunan cuisine. The meat was good; it was salty and dry from being cured, but dry in a good way. It had interesting dried white chili topped on it, I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten these before. I liked it, but I didn’t think the white chilis did much for the dish although overall it was good. 7.75/10
- Sautéed Pork Stomach with Smoked Bamboo: I surprised everyone by ordering this and not telling them what it was, but they all ended up liking it a lot though. This was sliced pork stomach with slices of bamboo shoots with chilis and scallions. It was actually really hard to tell which pieces were stomach versus which were bamboo until you bit into them. The stomach was very tender and the bamboo was slightly crunchy and the sauce was a simple soy sauce. While it was a simple dish, it was really good especially with some rice. 8.5/10
- Chairman Mao`s Red-Braised Pork: This was another “hong shao” dish except this one was with pork belly. The reason it’s called Chairman Mao’s is because Mao was from Hunan and supposedly this was one of his favorite dishes. This was really nice, the sauce was great and the pork belly was nicely tender. I will say it wasn’t quite as flavorful as a really good pork belly dish, but nonetheless this was still quite good. 8.25/10
- Cumin Flavored Beef on Toothpicks: This was beef on toothpicks that had been seasoned with cumin and it was topped with a green vegetable I couldn’t identify, chilis and scallions. It is very different than other preparations I’ve had; it was much lighter in cumin flavor and it was actually slightly sweet. The meat was really tender and I liked the flavoring a lot. This was definitely a pleasant surprise. 8.5/10
- Steamed Fish Head with Chopped Chiles: This was a big steamed fish head topped with chilis and scallions in a slightly spicy soy sauce. I tried this dish at the Flushing branch as well and I actually liked it better here. The sauce was quite nice as were the toppings. The fish was clean tasting although there wasn’t that much meat and the meat wasn’t quite as tender as I’d like. It was a good, but not great dish. 7.75/10
- Hunan Style Blue Crab: This was blue crabs cooked in a slightly spicy sauce. The shells were so soft that I actually just ate the shell in most cases. I tried this dish twice and one of the times the shells had a lot of crab roe which was a nice touch. This was a good dish. 8/10
- Green Bean Soup: This was given to us on the house. Unfortunately it wasn’t very good; it was too watery and not sweet enough. 6.25/10
- Sesame Sticky Rice Ball Soup: This was tang yuan which are sticky rice dough balls filled with black sesame paste in a soup with egg white and fermented rice. Tang yuan is one of my favorite Chinese desserts and I thought this was excellent. It is a very Chinese style dessert, so I’m not sure if everyone will enjoy this as much as I do, but if you like Chinese desserts you will like this. 8.5/10

Overall, I’ve been very impressed by the level of cooking that is going on at Hunan Manor and this is a “must try” type of restaurant as it’s definitely a notch above most Chinese restaurants in NY. I highly recommend coming here.

Hunan Manor
339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

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  1. Another great review and another restaurant to add to my "wanna go" list.

    17 Replies
    1. re: plf515

      thanks! you should def check it out soon, its def at the top of its game right now

      1. re: Lau

        have you tried hunan kitchen of grand sichuan in flushing? the braised pork mao style at hunan manor looks ok, but pales in comparison appearance wise to HKGS

        1. re: AubWah

          i haven't tried it, ive been meaning to go there for a while

          although how can u tell whether it "pales in comparison" if you haven't tried it?

          1. re: Lau

            Thanks for this review.

            If /when you do get out to Hunan Kitchen, try the smoked beef with white peppers. One of the best dishes I've had all year.


            1. re: Polecat

              ill def give it a go when i go there

            2. re: Lau

              I was saying it pales in compasion based on appearance

              1. re: AubWah

                ohhh ok

                it sounds like hunan kitchen needs to be my next stop in flushing as you and peter cuce have said good things about it

                1. re: Lau

                  I was capitvated by a steamed fish with pickled chilis at HKGS

                    1. re: AubWah

                      Have you had the BBQ Fish Mao Style there? Amazing.

                2. re: Lau

                  Thanks lau. While I like Hunan Manor their menu lacks the breadth that Hunan House and Hunan Kitchen of Grand Szechuan in Flushing have.

                  1. re: scoopG

                    Hey scoopG - I thought you'd enjoy the post, but yah u and i always disagree about the big menu thing b/c i actually like that they keep their menu small and i literally haven't had a bad dish there (except the complimentary green bean soup), but definitely really liking hunan manor

                    1. re: Lau

                      Lau, as you may recall, and to dovetail onto something Peter Cuce alluded to - you were not enamored of Hunan House in Flushing some two years ago. You promised to go back, didn't and now Hunan Manor is "one of the best Chinese restaurants in New York?"


                      Also, as I recall - in your one visit to Fu Run you had one Chinese guest who would not eat cumin and another who didn't like lamb. So no signature Queens dish at Fu Run: their Muslim Lamb Chop!

                      Edit: My only complaint about Hunan Manor - and it is a nod to the vagaries of operating a Chinese restaurant where they think they have to appeal to the folks coming in wanting American-Chinese staples. They have too many non Chinese items on the menu.

                      1. re: scoopG

                        i was not enamored with hunan house and unfortunately i have not had time to go back (too many restaurants and not enough time although i will make it back at some point as my goal is to have as many restaurants as possible on my blog to make it a useful guide). my meals at hunan manor have been much better than my meal at hunan house although to be fair ive only been to hunan house once and ive been to hunan manor three times.

                        all that being said irrespective of what my meal at hunan house was like, i think this is one of the better chinese restaurants in NY, i judge things on how much i like them on an absolute basis and this has been one of the restaurants that ive enjoyed eating at the most as far as chinese food goes in NY

                        re: fu fun,
                        actually i did order cumin lamb as that was one of the dishes highly recommended on this board (one of the guests didnt like cumin which i didnt know until after the fact), im a huge fan of cumin lamb or beef and fu run's was probably among the weakest ive had in NY (szechuan gourmet blows it away or the version here which is completely different was much better); however the cumin lamb chop did look good


              2. re: Lau

                Hunan cuisine does utilize Sichuan peppercorns. They are there! Hunanese believe in general that the Sichuanese overpower their dishes with too much of the hot and numbing. Not “fiendishly hot” as Fuchsia Dunlop says but “chili-hot.” Another feature of Hunan Cuisine is the broad use of smoked meats (and tofu) as well as combining salt and vinegar with spiciness.

                1. re: scoopG

                  ah interesting, i never noticed them so i didn't think they used them

                  yah i like most of their preserved / smoked meat

                  1. re: Lau

                    Mapo Tofu is now a Hunan dish!

            3. Great post Lau, looking forward to trying it. I'm curious about your contention however that it's a notch above most Chinese restaurants in NY - I would love if it were true, but I'm not sure. How widely have you eaten in Flushing? Have you tried Yi Lan, Fu Run, Hunan Kitchen, Jiang Li, Spicy Road, etc.?

              29 Replies
              1. re: Peter Cuce

                thanks! def give it a try

                To answer your question: I think the actual execution of the cooking is very good at hunan manor. A lot of NY places, while tasty, are not executed all that well b/c when you compare it to what you would get in china / hong kong / taiwan etc etc you find that the execution is poor...too salty, too oily, over cooked etc etc. Not to say that they are bad by any means, as its quite obvious i eat alot of chinese food in NY, but just not executed all that well.

                of the restaurants you have mentioned I've only been to fu run. I know fu run is a board favorite, but I didn't think it was that great, it was good, but nothing i'm clamouring for.

                However all of the restaurant you mentioned are northern restaurants except hunan kitchen and as I've said before I'm admittedly biased towards more southern chinese food as I find for my own palate that northern food as a cuisine pales to most southern cuisine. When i say southern i'm generally talking shanghai and south, so specifically shanghainese (zhejiang / huaiyang), cantonese, hunan, sichuan, chao zhou, min nan (part of fujian province), taiwan, singapore.

                So personally I've found the northern restaurants to be more of a novelty for me as opposed to something I crave. Now this is completely my own opinion and many will disagree with me as everyone has their own tastes. I am also not saying there are not good northern chinese dishes b/c there are plenty, but most northern cuisine as a whole for me is not something i'm in love with.

                Btw i thought spicy road closed?

                1. re: Lau

                  I was only referring to quality of cooking and not cooking style, since you proclaim it as possibly one of the best Chinese restaurants in New York. Hunan Kitchen is very good. You should give it a try. And what about Little Pepper?

                  Maybe you should give the Northern spots some more wide-ranging attention - you might find things you love. I certainly have. Some of them execute very well.

                  Spicy Road was open as of a couple of weeks ago. I should have glanced across the street when I was at Yi Lan last night :)

                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                    Hey Peter - the point i was trying to make was:
                    1) i find hunan manor's quality of cooking to be very good especially compared to other chinese restaurants in NY
                    2) for the restaurants you listed, it is possible that even if they are cooking the respective cuisine in a very high quality manner i may not be a huge fan of it just b/c im not a huge fan of northern chinese cuisine

                    All that said, alot of the restaurants on my "to try" list are northern chinese restaurants as they seem to be alot of the newer restaurant openings in flushing. And as you said i'm sure i will find things i will love

                    i will def give hunan kitchen a try

                    1. re: Peter Cuce

                      Hunan House is as good as Hunan Kitchen and they share some history. From when Hunan House first opened, I believed it was one of the best Chinese restaurants in NY. They've continued to expand their menu and add amazing dishes and tweak old recipes (although sometimes for the worse). Their lotus wrapped rice pork was one of the most stunning dishes I've had in NY for under $15. I'd take it over dishes at EMP, Jean Georges, etc. They no longer serve it in a whole lotus leaf and it tastes slightly different but it is still delicious.

                      1. re: Pookipichu

                        i need to make it back to the flushing branch to try it and compare

                        whats your favorite dishes?

                        1. re: Lau

                          Hunan House (Flushing) and Hunan Manor (Manhattan) are only connected by having one family member in each place. The owner of Hunan House, Alan Li has a sister who is an investor at Hunan Manor.

                          Hunan Kitchen of Grand Szechuan actually poached the chef from Hunan House when they opened. Or from the Hunan House perspective they let go a poor performing Chef!

                          As I recall you thought your one meal at Hunan House was only so-so, no?

                          1. re: scoopG

                            yah thats why i need to go back to re-try it so i can compare it while its fresh in my mind (i eat at hunan manor fairly regularly)

                          2. re: Lau

                            The lotus wrapped steamed rice pork

                            The smoked duck with plum sauce

                            The pork in steamed rice (different from above, one is dusted in rice powder, the other is steamed inside a mound of rice)

                            The pepper chicken

                            The pumpkin pancakes

                            The mao style pork.

                            Sorry I don't remember the menu names for the dishes and can't type the Chinese characters with my computer.

                            1. re: Pookipichu

                              Braised fish head with pickled chili peppers might be a worthy addition to that list.
                              The following menu link may be slightly out of date:

                              1. re: diprey11

                                excuse my ignorance, but what's the appeal of ordering a fish head instead of the whole fish?

                                1. re: uncledunkel

                                  the fish head is usually the head of a larger fish than one would be able to order a whole fish of for one or two or three people, and it contains all those tender areas that are especially tasty...

                                  1. re: Simon

                                    You can certainly order the whole fish cooked that way, not just a head!
                                    The head can be cooked for a longer time without the risk of overcooking, resulting in deeper, more complex flavors.
                                    I would even argue that thanks to availability of local seawater fish, the whole fish is better ordered steamed (pickled chilis and all) rather than braised: see the link provided by ScoopG below.

                      2. re: Lau

                        Wow, you just opened up a can of worms. While my taste is somewhat similar to yours in terms of cuisine preference, I have to resist being nitpicky about your statements so I don't derail the thread. My feelings are not unlike Northern Italian vs. Southern Italian in terms of regional pride (ie. my region is the best, everyone else is inferior). :)

                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                          hey Cheeryvisage - it is a can of worms, but i try to be honest with everyone and tell them i am biased and it is food at the end of the day so there really isn't a right or wrong b/c if you like something it doesnt matter what i think or anyone else thinks as long as you enjoy it

                          Also, the regions i named are so broad that i don't think its really regional pride b/c i just named like a huge portion of southeast and southcentral china haha and many of those people would consider their cuisine far superior to others i mentioned

                          1. re: Lau

                            lol, I understand. I'm pretty biased myself. My preference is Jiangzhe (but not really Shanghainese other than xiaolongbao because Shanghainese cooking tend to be heavy-handed with sugar) and Cantonese. These two cuisines are more about the natural flavors of the ingredients rather than the sauces. :)

                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                              yah from a very high level i like the emphasis of fresh ingredients (particularly seafood) most southern coastal cuisine has and i like the use of spices in certain southern inland cuisine (hunan, sichuan)

                              also from a breadth standpoint, i feel like cantonese and to a lesser extent min nan (including taiwan and singapore / malaysia) and chao zhou (including singapore / malaysian) food has so much to offer. Seafood, bbq, noodles, soups, dumplings, clay pots, rice dishes, porridge, desserts etc etc etc...they all regions that are blessed with alot of abundance given their proximity to the sea and their weather

                              1. re: Lau

                                To bring this back, the Steamed Eggplant with Salty Duck Egg and the Sautéed Pork Stomach with Smoked Bamboo look really good. Definitely on my to-do list.

                                ETA: I just showed my boyfriend your blog post. He said, "Let's go there next week!" :)

                                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                  yah you should def go try it, those two dishes are excellent

                                  btw if u happen to go on thurs, fri or sat with like 4+ people you might want to make a res as i had to wait one time

                                  1. re: Lau

                                    Thanks for the advice. We're going early next week, so should be okay. And it'll only be the two of us, I doubt they take reservations for party of two.

                                    Question about the Sticky Rice Balls, which version did you get and how many rice balls were there? According to Menupages, there's the Sticky Rice Ball In Chinese Sweet Rice Wine ($8.95) and Sticky Rice Balls ($3.95).

                                    Since you mentioned that yours had fermented rice, I thought it was the former. But I was shocked by how much more expensive the rice wine version is. I joked with my boyfriend that I should sneak in my homemade fermented rice and pour it in at the restaurant when no one's looking.

                                    1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                      the version i ordered is the $3.95 version, its got 4 tang yuan in a soup of egg white and fermented rice

                                      the $8.95 version is a very big bowl filled with a rice wine soup with small tang yuan that i believe are not filled with anything. I see this dessert alot at shanghainese / zhejiang restaurants

                                      1. re: Lau

                                        Oh, I see. Thanks for confirming.

                              2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                While yes, traditional Shanghai cuisine was known for using sugar – it was rock sugar (compressed brown sugar) which is considered more healthful than other sugars.

                                1. re: scoopG

                                  I see, thanks for that information. Though my issue with the heavy sugar use in Shanghainese cooking has more to do with not enjoying sweetness in protein / savory dishes, rather than health reasons. :)

                                  Even though I don't enjoy sweet Shanghainese cooking, I still keep on going to Shanghainese restaurants because they're the closest thing to the broader Jiangzhe cuisine here. I'll be thrilled if say... Nanjing restaurants start popping up in NYC. :)

                                  1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                    you know while shanghainese cuisine is a bit on the sweet side when i was in shanghai i didn't think food was nearly as sweet there as it is here.

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      I wonder if Shanghainese restaurants here purposely make their dishes sweeter because they think Americans like them better this way?

                                      Though, I think it also varies among Shanghainese restaurants in Shanghai. The Chinese version of Yelp, Dianping, is full of comments either categorizing Shanghai's 本帮菜 restaurants as "on the sweet side that only native Shanghainese would enjoy", or "not too sweet so my dad visiting from city XYZ loved the food too".

                                      1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                        When i lived in SH, i often food the food too sweet for my taste, though most places did offer enough non-sweet dishes (e.g. Braised river shrimp w/ cashew, tofu w/ herbs, etc) that i could construct a meal that wasnt too sugary...

                                        I did eat a lot of Hunan food in SH though (its quite trendy there) so i'm looking forward to trying Hunan Manor, esp since i enjoyed H House on my one visit a couple years ago...

                                        Hunan Manor
                                        339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                          yah i was actually thinking the same thing, but im not could've been that i just ate at restaurants that weren't that sweet, but i dont think so

                              3. re: Cheeryvisage

                                I think a better geographical comparison would be to say the food of Florida is preferred over that found elsewhere in the states. As Chandavkl has noted on these boards before: to an old school Cantonese, Northern Chinese constitutes any Chinese cuisine that is not Cantonese!

                          2. Agree 100% Hunan Manor is fabulous.
                            The only problem we have is that it is across the street from Mapo Tofu which we also love. Lucky us!!
                            We live about 100 yards from both treasures.

                            Mapo Tofu
                            338 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                            Hunan Manor
                            339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Motosport

                              ah thats very convenient for u, its close to my office, but not that close to my apt although its close to my GF's apt which is part of the reason ive been eating there alot

                              1. re: Lau

                                ........and much closer than C-Town or Flushing!!!!!! I also loved the blue crabs.

                                1. re: Motosport

                                  After a long travel day, libations will be welcomed, so not for nothing, but are beer and wine sold, or is it BYOB?

                                  1. re: Steve Drucker

                                    No liquor license but you are welcome to BYOB.

                                    Edit: I'll add my own slideshow below as there are some interior shots. They also have a spacious upstairs.

                                    1. re: Steve Drucker

                                      Mapo Tofu across the street has a liquor license. There is a nice wine shop just North Hunan Manor.

                                      Mapo Tofu
                                      338 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                      Hunan Manor
                                      339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                              2. I wish they had more authentic dishes on the lunch menu

                                1. The original comment has been removed