Chow Lunch at Hunan Gate in Ballston - Report
Somehow fifteen Chowhounds squeezed around a large table to order from the Chinese menu at Hunan Gate in Ballston. The more the merrier!
We ordered a lot of food from the menu which features Dongbei (northeast) cuisine which has buns, noodles, and breads plus mostly plain and homey stews.
Here is the list of what we ordered:
Chive Dumplings, Hand Scratch Pan Cake, Handmade noodles with meat sauce, Northeast Rice Cakes
Snow Pea Tips, Baby Bok Choy
Pork with Dried Day Lilly, Pork with Homemade Sour Napa, Northeast Mooshi Pork, Jumbo Pork Meatballs, Pork Belly
Saute Spicy Chicken, Aged Chicken with Mushrooms, Fish with Corn Flour Big Buns
Most of the food is rather pleasant and plain tasting, except that the spicy chicken was truly spicy. If I had to pick out some successes and failures, I think the pork belly and pork meatballs are very good, and I also enjoyed the Fish with Corn Big Buns, and the Dried Day Lillies.
The Pan Cake was a rather limp version of a Thousand Layer Bread like what you might find at A&J. I also wasn't that thrilled with the gluey rice cakes or chive dumplings which came out like fried empanadas with a filling that was refrigerator cold.
I'm sure everyone had their own likes and dislikes.
I believe there is 'new' management - maybe a year ago? Still, you wouldn't notice because the average customer is simply handed the Chinese-American menu. It is only recently that they have translated the Chinese-language menu. It's not a terribly skilled rendition of dongbei cuisine, but there are some things to like. Getting the pork belly and some snow pea tips in garlic is far better than the standard fare.
i liked the authentic moo shu pork:
wiki describes it: In its traditional Chinese version, moo shu pork consists of sliced or shredded pork chop meat and scrambled eggs, stir fried in sesame and/or peanut oil together with thinly sliced wood ear mushrooms (black fungus) and day lily buds. Thinly sliced bamboo shoots may also be used. The dish is seasoned with minced ginger and garlic, scallions, soy sauce, and rice cooking wine (usually huangjiu).
good meatballs -- coarsely ground meat was interesting. juicy, flavorful, nice texture
rice cakes = glue. other bread, meh
chive dumplings were indeed like honking big turnovers. seemed sodden, not fresh at all. very odd dough and recycled (in my opinion) filling.
i couldn't bring myself to try the fish which came at the very end. first, it was gray and swimming in dark liquid, and second, i didn't want to deal with croaker! (SO unchowish. ok, i'll take the rap. and I had wanted steve to order fish, and didn't really think of anything but "crispy" -- my bad). (it does get a little crazy with 15 + !).
the noodles in both dishes with noodles were rather doughy. the large ones in the spicy chicken dish reminded me of those frozen "flat dumplings" that one can buy at the grocery store -->>> http://www.walmart.com/ip/Anne-s-Old-Fashioned-Flat-Thin-Pastry-Strips-Dumplings-1.5-lb/11997692
i too liked the dish with the sour napa -- it has some spunk. (in contrast, many other dishes were very similar to each other).
the pork belly was the best of the lot, but it was nowhere near that of hong kong palace.
i did like very much the pickled potato juliennes (i thought they were daikon radish because of the crispy texture and appearance). polly told me how to make them by blanching, and it gave me ideas about using potatoes (julienned and blanched) with a thai som tum dressing. hey polly, would any of these japanese techniques work for what we had there? http://1tess.wordpress.com/2008/02/03...
snow pea shoots and bok choy were done fine, but no raves here (unlike hong kong palace's outstanding snow pea shoots).
i'm glad we went, and it was fun to meet up and try new things, but there are several other chinese places we'd go to before returning here.
ok, we would not return here. there, i said it. ;-). but…we would not have learned some interesting things had we not gone…
and i always want to be sure and thank steve for all the organizing and initiative!
let's go to dim sum on some saturday to hong kong pearl seafood. get a nice array of treats and some crispy fish, pork bbq and quack!
We Not to hijack this thread but we had a great chinese banquet at Hong Kong Pea for a party-best deal in the area at $220 for a table of 10, 10 courses (crab meat and fish maw soup, cold appetizer platter w/ jellyfish, cuttlefish w/ tofu stuffed shrimp, abalone, roast chicken, requisite noodles, great lobster, walnut shrimp, whole fish two ways, gelatin dessert). I highly recommend checking it out, maybe even before dimsum. I wish these CH get-togethers weren't during the week.
We also had a cumin lamb dish that I would have liked far more if I hadn't had the Chengdu version many times. It was very salty and far less complex than the Chengdu version.
My favorites were the saute spicy chicken and the pork with sour napa. The sauted spicy chicken included Korean-style sweet potatoes that have a sweet starchy flavor rather reminiscent of chestnuts, and they were a great foil for the heat of the rest of the dish.