Hu Bei Restaurant (Millbrae)

The menu has a Wuhan focused section, as well as hodgepodge of Sichuan Chinese American etc. Please report back if you have a chance to try anything on the menu.

This is a real deal Hu Bei restaurant. W1-3, W9-10, H1-2x are all Hubei dishes. The other items are mostly fillers catering to people looking for the familiar, e.g. Szechuan, Hunan dishes.

They have representations from all over Hubei, e.g.:
Wuhan: W1-3, H6-8, H12-H13, H15-H16. Wuhan have more roasted dishes. Note: Wuhan is a combination of three cities- Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang.
Tianmen (between Wuhan and Jingzhou): rice powder steamed dishes: H3/ H4.
Jingzhou (which was an important city during the Three Kingdoms period): H1
Hanchuan: H14

H19- Hubei has lots of lake (hu), and they produce a lot of lotus root so that’s a common dish.
H17- its kidney instead of pork loin
H1- Hubei also produces a lot of river fish. Hubei also lays claim to the term ‘Land of fish and rice’, despite the term more commonly known in the English-speaking world (via Dunlop) as applicable to Jiang Nan.

Fun fact: if you want to impress the presumably Hubei owners, try saying Hu Bei (which is Mandarin translated into English) in its native dialect, which sounds like ‘hŭ bèr’ instead, with ber somewhat rhymes with the English word ‘the’.

黄鹤楼, or yellow crane tower, above their restaurant name on the first page of the menu, is a tower located in Wuhan. Famous poets in history have written poems about the tower.

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I didn’t have a chance to try many specialties, but I’m pleased to report that the dishes I ate were quite good.

Hot dry noodles had a little kick from chili oil, and a light coating of a sesame-based sauce. it seems more spartan than typical sesame noodles, but a better usage of ingredients, or the version @Souperman reported about at Pot Noodle ,

The beer duck was good, if not better than other versions I’ve had at Hunan and Sichuan restaurants. What’s the origin of beer duck? In any case, the cooking liquid left the skin dark and meat tender and flavorful. The duck’s skin showed neither signs of flab nor a loss of elasticity from reheating. There were lots of whole garlic cloves, sweetened from slow cooking and delicious.

The shredded cabbage, hand torn technically,was excellent. Tender crisp, not oily, haunting flavor.

Did you mean you took it home and reheat, or you thought they reheat at the restaurant?

Place busy?

I ate it at the restaurant. It’s a slow cooked dish, and Wonderful, fur example, where it’s flabby, microwaves it before serving. That’s probably common for things like stews, but it suffers there.

Not too busy.

Got there for the first time. Hu Bei Restaurant is run by a Wuhan owner and chef.

Hubei person’s opinion: Unripe, and hard lotus root was used. Ripe lotus root was supposed to be creamy and soft. A true hubei lotus root soup will boil the creamy lotus root into a mushy texture so the ‘soup’ would be like a dilute paste with the sweetness of the root infused. This soup won’t be drunk in Hubei.

My opinion: Lotus root pork rib soup. Soup was sweet, but not from the lotus root where the sweetness normally comes from when the root is picked ripe, but likely from sugar. Lotus root was a bit hard and unripe. Tasted like a Cantonese soup to my Cantonese palate. Despite having eaten a fair share of lotus root in my life, I don’t think I’ve ever had one in that texture, likely because I’ve always lived far away from the source. A Cantonese taste obviously is a wrong taste for the Hubei soup.

Beer duck:

My opinion: Loads of duck. Quite a bit of heat. Noodle Talk Los Altos’ version was cooked with more nuance. Though of course its in a totally different class of price (double and 1/3 the amount of duck).

Hot dry noodle had a little bit of heat. The noodle was very soft, almost have a mushy texture, and overcooked as well. Probably the better dish of the bunch.

The yellow crane tower on the wall.

If the mushiness didn’t cloud other assessments, what did you and your dining companion think of the noodles? Mine weren’t mushy and were a good noodle dish, but I didn’t quite understand why these are cited as one of the top noodle dishes in China.

Also, regarding the cabbage dish I got, I had the cabbage at Royal Feast a few days later. Both versions were good but different. Both were very oily, and Hu Bei Restaurant’s derived its flavor partly from tender-crisp cabbage, but mostly from the sauce, which had sugar in it. Royal Feast’s version was more refined, and had both wok hei and visible charring.

Time to check out General Tso Kitchen in the former X An Gourmet space. A Yelp reviewer says “I love the lotus soup. The lotus is cooked super soft and melt in your mouth instantly…”

Yelp on General Tso Kitchen

Thanks. I am not sure the distinction between ripe lotus root cooked into a paste versus raw lotus root cooked into a paste. Sweetness? I was told that the ripe ones are found in the two lakes area. (Dongting and which one? I take it to mean the general Hu Bei/ Hu Nan/ Si Chuan area) I am guessing its like tomatoes. Ripe ones just don’t survive an intercontinental trek to our doorsteps.

My dining companion- it was ok, but not worth driving for. Hankow in San Jose (or Cupertino?) got the slight edge.

Me- I think its a decent noodle dish. I suspect a number of reasons contribute to your perception. that its top 10 because of how widely known it is. that based on my dining companion’s comment, what we got here may be perhaps lesser renditions of the real deal over there (ingredients, cooking techniques). and lastly, taste preference of local population and climate conditions- by that i mean the local population evolve to prefer certain taste which is totally different from what i generally prefer (for example, i’ve never liked zha jiang mian, even the recommended ones around here, despite its status in the ‘top 10’, but that’s my problem). and the climate here is not suitable for eating certain dishes, like to eat the spicy Sichuan dishes, one needs the humid hot local climate in Sichuan, otherwise its not that comfortable doing so in the dry NorCal weather.

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I think the “eight great” or “10 great” lists they like to make in China often have political or geographic distribution considerations. Have you ever wondered if Anhui cuisine is really one of the “Eight Great Cuisines” of China?

Good points! Best of lists are always biased in some way.

Carolyn Phillips has some good commentary on the “eight cuisines”, saying it is a recent concept and refers to haute styles that don’t necessarily represent the foods of the regions they refer to.

Heh, I had some remarkable food in Tankou in Anhui, but atop Huangshen, I had food about as tasty as La Choy’s chop suey — it’s intended for tour groups in a rush.

I love that lists of notable Anhui dishes invariably list “Li Hongzhang Hotchpotch (or Hodgepodge).” Li Hongzhang’s tour of the US reputedly led to the invention of chop suey, so they had to repatriate the dish to take advantage of its celebrity.

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