Not that I am one to use football terminology casually, but I felt that after Friday's disastrous adventure to the Euclid Tavern, today needed to be a knock-out. After suggesting several options for lunch that turned out not to have lunch hours, I finally suggested Hunan East on Richmond Road, right across the street from the Richmond Mall. It was originally suggested to me by a good friend and when I was working up in Richmond Heights about a year ago, I visited there several times with good results.
The key to a good meal at Hunan East is knowing to ask for the "Chinese" menu. When you initially walk in, they give you the Americanized Chinese menu (Sweet & Sour, General Tso's, etc.). The Chinese menu pictorially describes about 3 dozen various authentic Chinese dishes. An English translation is written below the pictures. My friends and I decided we would do family style dining and we each ordered an entree from the menu that suited our fancy.
My friend Chris ordered the shredded pork and shredded pressed tofu in soy sauce:
This was quite good and while the dish was seasoned nicely with soy, there wasn't any "sauce" to speak of. It had all been absorbed by the dish. Mike liked the look of the scallops in black bean sauce:
This came out on one of those sizzling hotplates you normally see in Mexican restaurants when someone orders fajitas. I found out later from the friend who had originally recommended Hunan East that this is how black bean dishes are traditionally served. This dish was also a slam dunk. The fermented black beans had a nice piquancy to them and the scallops were simply divine. They were tender and succulent, with just the right amount of seasoning. Of the three dishes we ordered, only this one was polished off.
Finally, when I saw it on the menu, I knew I had to order it: Ma Po Tofu.
I ordered it extra spicy, or "la", and boy did it deliver. Besides the jalapeno peppers (which were also in the shredded pork dish), there were also other kinds of peppers in there as well, although I didn't detect any Szechwan peppercorns. This had a really nice heat level to it, although it didn't blow your head off. To my palate, the heat of this dish was more of a back-of-the-throat heat, as opposed to a front-of-the-mouth heat. The balance between the creaminess of the tofu and the texture of the ground pork was also very nice.
All three of us declared that Hunan East had indeed delivered on a fantastic meal. It was also a great value, at about $12 per person with food left over. Highly recommended.