Best SFBA Hunan restaurants?

#1

According to an old job posting, Easterly (Santa Clara, Berkeley) is a chain from Zhuzhou City, Hunan province that was established in 2005. A restaurant group owns Easterly (xiaoxiang, 眷湘; also Sichuan brand Dongfeng 东风食府) and their Berkeley location has a positive report from @tm.tm. Announcements for a Cupertino and Fremont location are announced on a yelp photo.

They are not the first international Hunan chain here, and several local chains are testament to the popularity of Hunan food in the SFBA. Wonderful in Millbrae has various locations in Beijing. Local chains include former Shao Mountain, which sprouted Hunan Impression and sister restaurant Ping’s Bistro. Noodle Talk and Noodle Talk Home Cuisine are liked among us, but mixed reviews on Hungry Onion for Hunan Cuisine and sister restaurant Love My Buns, which serves both Hunan and elsewhere derived wheaten things. Sizzling Pot King, the dry pot specialist, was one of those rare (only?) Silicon Valley Chinese businesses to spread to SF (SoMa).

Do y’all think that any Hunan restaurants are at the quality level, or better than, than our best Sichuan restaurants? Clarissa Wei said in 2017/2018 that Spices Fremont bested anything in LA (a rare SFBA win for non-Cantonese!). Albany’s Wojia impressed many of us at a lunch; Soleil Ho enough to include it in the SF Chronicle’s Top 100; and Janelle Bitker when she was at the EB Express. The owner of Wojia opened a Hunan restaurant in Albany because he noted that the market was saturated with Sichuan places, and Hunan restaurants were absent, at the time, from the (upper) east bay.

Given those accolades and all the above places having enough success to open multiple locations, does any one restaurant/chef rise to the top, either in traditional Hunan dishes, more contemporary Hunan fare, or specialties (the Hunan noodle places and dry pot places)?

@tanspace, do you have any preferences?

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Regional Chinese roundup 3.0 (SF Bay Area)
(tanspace) #2

That’s a great roundup of the Hunan places.

One of my favorite places is the relative newcomer Easterly 眷湘 in Santa Clara, which is slated to open 2 more branches in Cupertino and Fremont. One of the dishes “meatball soup” is done excellently as the pork meatball is soft and without any bad pork smell. It is one of the best versions I’ve tried.

The other favorites are the original “Shao Mountain 韶山” related restaurants Hunan Impression and Ping’s Bistro. One other place in N. SJ called Bai Xing Jia 百姓家 is also pretty good.

Love My Buns is so-so on the dumplings but good on the Gobuli 狗不理 baozi. It is also one of the very few Chinese restaurant that actually servers breakfast and opens at 9am.

As far as the dry pots 乾鍋,my favorite is the Sizzling Gourmet 九味鍋王 in Cupertino。But one of the first dry pot places in bay area, Fremont’s General Pot 郭將軍 is still good.

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#3

What is our best Sichuan restaurant? Z&Y? If so, no offense to Z&Y, because it does its job just fine, its not tremendously difficult to best.

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#4

I haven’t kept up with the South Bay places.

Royal Feast may have the best take on classic dishes, but Chef Liu doesn’t cook any of the dishes that become popular in more recent years. Z&Y is a good choice in SF, the food is never bad, but prepares some classic dishes toned down and is a few years behind new dishes you can get elsewhere. I was at Alhambra’s Chengdu Taste a few days after my last visit to Z&Y, and it was like a different universe.

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#5

From my very limited experience with Hunan restaurants in the Bay Area, I vote for Wojia. Though my wife and I enjoyed Noodle Talk, we haven’t really gone back despite living in the area.

With that said, the Sichuan and Hunan restaurants here all miss a bit of finesse and subtlety. But that comes at a cost of course, and none of the places here charge much more than a mid-range place to provide that level of quality.

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