09 January 2010

Tasting Hunan Taste

I had the privilege of attending my first meeting of the 'Charm City Hounds' this past weekend for lunch at Hunan Taste in Catonsville. We sampled 21 things from their extensive authentic Hunanese menu (we didn't touch the American menu).

Although I had a lot of unique dishes and most certainly broadened my horizons, there weren't any groundbreaking dishes to be had. While that may be the case, there were some damn fine ones. Let's take a look at the order list posted here near the end of the topic by one of my fellow diners accompanied by some of the pictures I managed to snap while we feasted. Keep in mind that these dishes were going around the tables so some of them were almost gone by the time they came around to me. I did the best I could!

To save myself A LOT of repetition, as my fellow foodies reported: the heat was lacking across the board, I was expecting much more after reading various internet reviews. I think they may have dumbed it down for us a bit, which is bizarre considering we were a huge group of people all ordering from the traditional Hunanese menu. Bah, we want the heat!

(#2) Spicy sliced ox lung

This was one of my higher ranked dishes. The meat was super tender and the overall flavor was great. There was much discrepancy at the table over exactly what we were eating, but nonetheless it was very tasty.

(#8) Shrimp with mixed bitter melon

I can appreciate bitter, but this melon was just too bitter. Unbalanced dish in my opinion and one of my least favorite.

(#17) Mao's braised pork

I was really looking forward to this dish and it wasn't quite as good as I expected. I would've preferred the fat rendered down a bit more due to a longer cooking time. Overall it was still one of the better dishes.

(#19) Spicy fried mutton chops

Sweet batter on lamb? Fail. And I love lamb. So sad.

(#21) Spicy pig skin

Strange texture. I, as most other diners, expected crispy skin. It was still very interesting and the texture reminded me of something but I can't quite put my finger on it... A thick seaweed salad maybe?

(#?) Spicy Chanzul Frog

This was frog? I never would've guessed... Unmentionable otherwise.

(#24) Steamed fish head-on with diced hot peppers

My first helping was great because I got a nice meaty hunk of cheek meat. The second helping was all bones and fat and remembering it now is making me sick to my stomach. I'd recommend this dish if you don't stray too close to the head and pay attention to what you're putting on your plate.

(#41) Double cooked pork with garlic

Another one of my favorites. Maybe some of the other diners didn't get a pepper on their plate but I definitely bit into some heat from this dish.

(#52) Preserved sausage with smoked bamboo shoot. Not sausage - slices of salt preserved pork

The last dish that arrived at the table and by far the best. This would be the dish I return for. Excellent balance of pork and smoky bamboo shoot. Very very good.

(#55) Minced pork with sauteed sour beans

This was the first dish that hit the table and remained at the top of my list until the very end. I can't really describe it but the flavors were very addicting. A great start to the meal.

(#75) Eggplant in clay pot with garlic sauce

Nothing memorable/mentionable.

(#83) Stewed duck with ginseng. A thin soup, more than a stew

Sorry, no pic for this one! This was by far the most flavorful soup. It was like liquid essence of duck. Very good.

(#94) Tea Tree mushroom with pork casserole

I didn't realize until my second helping that this dish had pork in it. It didn't matter, the mushrooms alone made this one of my favorite dishes. Sweet woodsy, earthy bliss. Would definitely order this again.

(#95) Eggplant on iron plate

Nothing mentionable.

(#106) Soft Shell Turtle in brown sauce

This was turtle? Everyone thought it was duck until our waiter told us otherwise. Who knew?

(#128) Duck soup

A big disappointment. This soup was very thin and only faintly tasted of duck. Completely outclassed by the stewed duck with ginseng.

(#130) Clam soup with winter melon

This was my personal addition to the order and a big disappointment. As in the case of the duck soup, this tasted like broth with a very faint clam flavor. Intentional or not, this was a letdown.

[off-menu] Saute snow pea leaves

Again, no picture of this dish. This dish reminded me of perfectly cooked broccoli rabe.

(#?) Taro pancakes

Sorry but that was my share so that was all I could snap a shot of. This was doughy and juicy, the texture reminded me of the sesame balls they sometimes have at chinese buffets. I love those things so naturally I liked this dish.

Holy crap my eyes are bleeding. If that's not enough pictures for you, then I give up... Until next time my micro friends!

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Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kyle!

I wonder why they didn't use all the duck carcasses to make the broth taste better. Btwm Chicken and waffles today was great.


Kyle said...

Wish I could've been there... That's a combination I've been wanting to try for some time! Ah well, at least we beat the Pats!

Elke said...

Last night despite the rude staff we ordered several different dishes. The duck was good, the fried rice was very plain, we had couple other dishes.... the fried fish was so greasy it was like they put the fish in the oil before it was hot if you cook you know what I mean.. it was soaked with oil! we asked for it to be taken back! the waitress just looked at me turned around and walked away so we asked again the waiter was so rude turning his nose said it was not oily and it was chinese style...they refused to take it off the bill and made a huge scene stating that you cant just order something and because you do not like it send it back we spend $ 136 so we where not trying to be cheap! but they made it seem that way saying we will not get a discount...I do not recommend this place at all!!!!! will be going back to
Mr Chan 1000 Reisterstown Rd (410) 484-1100 or
Hunan L' Rose 1131 Annapolis Rd Odenton (301) 621-9388 friendly staff and good food!!

zishon said...

we had a horrible experience here. sounded like a great authentic restaurant based on the review and a good place to experiment. My wife ordered filet fish in brown sauce. It had a lot of bones and we told our server that this was much more than we expected and was inedible. What followed was ridiculous. The server pulled up a sign that was hidden behind salt shaker and bottles of sauces that said we should expect some bones. He called the manager who just shook his head and said we should ask questions before we order and should not make assumptions based on how its served elsewhere. The waiter then tried to get the owner who looked at us and turned around and left. I insisted that I would only pay if the owner came and talked to us- the waiter said he couldnt get the owner to come and he feared getting fired if he tried again. We paid in full for our order. The owner was near the exit when we were leaving. As i approached him, he let out a big "neh",said something to seating host in a language i did not understand and left. The seating host tried to explain that owner had some other work to do, offered the first words of apologies and when asked if he was happy with the kind of service they provided, shrugged his shoulders and said that they were the only authentic chinese restaurant in the area. There was a lot more said by the server, manager and the seating host. They were defensive, sometimes outright belligerent or arrogant. They showed no desire to listen to us nor did they care that they were perceived as providing poor service. Perhaps we went with wrong expectations and perhaps we ordered poorly but they felt no guilt about ruining our evening out or working with us. obviously we are not going back.

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