Restaurant Review: Hunan Village

Upscale French or American? Sure. But Chinese—and in Yonkers? You bet

Chinese to be taken seriously

Upscale French or American? Sure. But Chinese—and in Yonkers? You bet.

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We made a reservation for Hunan Village, but to be honest, I didn’t take it too seriously. It was a Chinese restaurant on a Sunday night. How busy could it be? Very. I soon found out why.

 

The quality of the food is far above standard Chinese-American fare. The ingredients are higher quality, the preparations more traditional and the range of dishes more interesting and varied.

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Subtle, the decor is not. Gold dragons roam throughout the brilliantly colored Oriental pattern on the ceiling. Bouquets of artificial flowers and a white and orange plastic koi top the railing that divides the main dining room. But somehow it works.

 

We started with ethereal shrimp dumplings, four little white clouds resting on a large bok choy leaf inside a bamboo steamer. The rice-based skin has a gelatinous texture that dissolves on contact with your tongue, an unworldly effect that three of us liked very much and one (the most down-to-earth) did not. The shrimp flavors were fresh and nicely set off by the sweet soy and ginger sauce.

 

The appetizers came sequentially, so that we could give each one our full attention before moving on. Next up were crabmeat balls rolled in crispy greens. Biting into one of these gave several interesting sensations at once: the crisp, deep-fried shredded greens and the yielding softness of crabmeat and a rice binder—the burst of both sweetness and heat in a little dollop of sauce.

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Ordering “off the menu” is one of the great pleasures of Hunan Village, so for our last appetizer we followed the waiter’s recommendation of tea-smoked squab. The bird was quite meaty, so that we all enjoyed a good serving of the rich, smoky, deeply flavored squab, served on the bone. It was well worth the price—$16.95—but I was surprised when the bill came, so if you’re price sensitive, ask.

 

We had a pleasant breather, then suddenly were surrounded with a wealth of dishes. “Crispy duck!” announced the waiter, more than once, as he arranged a platter of neatly sliced, golden brown duck, which had been boned, braised, and deep-fried to luscious perfection, set over fresh vegetables, including lightly stir-fried asparagus stalks diagonally cut into three-inch lengths. Pork Lion’s Head, a covered “hot pot,” had a broth that was mysteriously heady and perfumed from a long simmer with bok choy. Resting in the broth were two large ground pork meatballs, surprisingly light and delicately textured.

 

Beef with scented ginger was reputedly a “hot” dish, but this must be aimed at the most sensitive palates. It was packed with thin slices of beef and thin, diagonal slices of fresh zucchini covered in a somewhat sweet, thick sauce. Dive for the little pink chunks of pickled ginger—they are what give this dish punch. It was a little closer to what I think of as typical Chinese, but the sauce was more subtle, the vegetables more carefully cut and cooked. The Beijing lamb was another dish with slices of meat, crispy snow cabbage and a sprinkling of sesame seeds covered with a thick sauce; it was good, but I wouldn’t order both at the same time.

 

Asian cuisine is not known for desserts, but Asians know we Americans are fond of them. So we jumped at the bananas that were dipped in batter, deep-fried, then rolled in caramelized sugar. At the table the waiters made a big fuss of dipping them in ice water to harden the candy-like crust, a touch of theatre I liked. Tableside preparation has mostly gone by the wayside, and it’s too bad.

 

By the time we finished around nine p.m., the dining room was nearly empty—a surprise after the fever pitch pace between six and eight p.m. If you want to go those hours, make a reservation, no matter what day of the week. And show up on time.

 

HUNAN VILLAGE

1828 Central Park Avenue, Yonkers

(914) 779-2272

 

HOURS:

Mon. to Fri., 12-10:30 pm

Sat., 12-11:30 pm

Sun., 1-10:30 pm

 

PRICES:

Appetizers: $1.85-$14.95

Entrées: $10.95-$21.95

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