Its 14:30, I just finished another East Village tour, and I’m hungry. An inside peek into my head… “I still have time for Hunan Slurp before the kitchen closes for a smoke break. Or should I just get another sick sandwich from Foxface? Where exactly did I park my car? If I sprint to the car with the sandwich, will it make it or get all soggy. How do you spell mausoleum anyway? Its cold and I really feel like noodles, preferably swimming in something spicy. Ok, Tatsu Ramen it is!”.
I did end up having one of the better bowls of Ramen this winter at Tatsu, called “Bold Ramen”. But the Hunanese noodle joint on the same block is where my thoughts are these days. I picked Tatsu because I’ve been to Hunan Slurp so many times lately, I’m having my Amazon mail forwarded there (yes I switched from Dell’anima after a complaint was issued).
Hunan Slurp, along with Le Sia, Szechuan Mountain House and some others is leading the charge in what is dubbed by some as “Chinatown North”. A most important Chinatown that looks nothing like a Chinatown. The past five years saw an explosion of young entrepreneurs opening shops covering a variety of regional Chinese cuisines. While they are young, the kitchens are staffed with very capable, experienced cooks. And a more recent phenomenon is popular Flushing and Sunset Park joints like 99 Favor Taste, and Szechuan Mountain House testing the waters of the more glamorous East Village.
Contrary to the what the title may suggest Hunan Slurp is stylish alright. In fact its one of the most tastefully decorated restaurants in the area. A lesson in restaurant design. Thats because owner Chao Wang who grew up in Hunan’s second largest city, is a former artist. But in a city where style over substance is much too common, its always refreshing to see stylish spaces where the food is the real attraction. Its a first date for foodies kinda place. Here’s the food rundown…
Hunan Salad – This is a thing of beauty and not really “Salad” by any means. Preserved eggs wrapped in eggplant topped with pepper and dressed in soy and sesame oil. Like Baba Ganoush with makeup. A must get.
Cabbage – Sounds awful. Looks even worse. Who wants to eat a plate titled cabbage? Me! After my first introduction to Chinese style cabbage at the Fei Long Market in Sunset Park I never looked back. When done right its addictive. And this one ladened with garlic, chili and soy, was one of those.
Fresh Whole Fish – Possibly the best thing I’ve eaten all year. The whole fish is chopped so it looks like fillets with bones. Covered with garlic, ginger, and a supremely flavorful homemade chili sauce
Chicken – The closest dish to American Chinese, and still a good get. Stir fried chicken with young ginger. The hot plates here can seem pricey (this is $25) but they are very shareable.
Hometown Lu Fen – Probably the closest thing on the menu to a signature dish. Sliced Beef, Char Su, Peanut, Cucumber, Bean Curd, Crispy Soy Bean and plenty of silky thick rice noodles that sucked all the little amount of broth. Pretty sure I sat next to Terri Hatcher while eating this. I didn’t ask, but she did ask me if I’m Ziggy, and I said no. Don’t like to be bothered while eating
Pepper & Pork – Mifen (rice noodles) is the specialty here. There are all sorts of nifty combinations on the menu, and this is just one of them. Its like soup topped with a delicious juicy stir fry.
A rare 3 Z’s!
112 1st Avenue (6/7), East Village
Rating: Three Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: All of the above