It happens from time to time. With the best of intentions, I have a meal at a restaurant I plan to review on the blog. I take pictures and mental notes during the meal and when I return home in the evening, I even go so far as to process all of the photos, storyboard them in Picasa and create the "shell" of the blog entry by uploading the photographs in the correct order and finally adding my "Alt" and "Title" tags to each photo. This is usually the first step in a two step process. Normally I will sleep on the meal and at some point during the next day, I will pull up my textless entry and fill in the prose. Occasionally I will do both steps on the same day, but it is pretty rare.
Even if I don't get around to writing the text for a week, aided with my already processed and tagged photographs, I've actually become quite good at recalling my sense memories of the meal. More than a week out, however, details begin to get cloudy in my brain. Sadly, such happened with a visit about six weeks ago to House of Hunan in Fairlawn. I had gone for a nice lunchtime meal and completed the first step in my blogging process when I returned home that night. For whatever reason, I put off writing the review until it was too late. I remembered that the meal was good, but lost quite a bit of the detail that I like my reviews to have.
To remedy this situation, I decided to return to House of Hunan for a second lunch. As an added bonus, I had my new Canon G12 with me (as well as my continually evolving food photography skills) to help me get better pictures than I took last time. House of Hunan was located at 2717 West Market Street, Fairlawn, OH 44333 and can be reached at 330-864-8215. They also have a website in case you want to check on menu or directions before you go. As this location of House of Hunan (there are three total) lived inside a strip mall, ample parking was available in the lot.
Here was a shot of the main entrance:
Once inside the main door, a sushi bar was positioned to the left of the entrance. This was an addition made to the main restaurant roughly ten years ago. In addition to sushi, House of Hunan has also added additional Japanese, Thai, and even traditional Chinese cuisine to their menu. This is great news for someone like myself because now the rest of my family can have the Americanized General Tso's Chicken and I have a plethora of more authentic options from which to pick.
Speaking of options, here were today's two lunch menus:
In addition to the lunch menus, the regular menu was also offered:
I decided only to include the above photograph of the regular menu since a) I was there for lunch, b) there would've been an additional dozen photographs since it is now so large, and c) I ordered an appetizer from the above menu page.
Before ordering any food, I decided to go for a pitcher of green tea:
Unlike my recent experience at China Gourmet, when the tea arrived at the table, it was fully brewed and ready to be drank. As I took a small draught from my tea cup, I was rewarded with a wonderful green tea aroma and delicate flavor.
While I often have a few pieces of nigiri sushi as an appetizer at a place which offers it, today I was feeling like something fried. When I saw that the appetizer menu offered two pork and shrimp spring rolls for $3, I decided to go in that direction.
Here was a photograph of the duo of spring rolls:
And where there were spring rolls, there must also be that duet of condiments, plum sauce and Chinese hot mustard:
While the tops of the spring rolls were crispy and not too greasy, sadly the same thing couldn't be said for the side sitting on the plate. As I picked each up and placed them on my paper napkin in an effort to minimize the grease, I noticed several small pools of grease still sitting on the plate. My server, being keenly astute of what I was doing with my only napkin, dropped off a fresh napkin. Even with the extra draining, it couldn't help alleviate the greasy bottom. Regardless, I took a bite and was rewarded with a shatteringly crisp exterior and a nicely seasoned interior. The shrimp and pork filling was hot and moist and was accented by the use of the sweet plum sauce and spicy mustard. I didn't verify this fact with my server, but the plum sauce tasted very fresh and the thought occurred to me that it might just be homemade.
Roughly five minutes after clearing away my appetizer plates, my lunch entree arrived. Here was a shot of the Shredded Pork and Pickled Vegetable Noodle soup:
At roughly $9, this crock of soup was large enough to split between two people. After my server set this down in front of me, I inhaled deeply and could smell the richness that soy brought to the party. Based on the darkish brown color of the broth, I'm guessing a healthy dose of soy sauce had been added. What I loved about this dish the last time I had it was that it felt very authentic to its Chinese roots. There was pork, yes, but it wasn't a pork dish, per se. The soy, mushrooms, and pork added a wonderful savory flavor, the pickled vegetables added a necessary sourness, and the finely sliced pea pods contributed a wonderful bit of sweetness and crunchy texture. The sliced green onions added a bit of sharpness.
As I dug into the dish with my chopsticks, I plucked the still steaming egg noodles from the bottom of the bowl. While I know it is common practice in China to slurp the noodles as a sign of gratitude toward the chef, I didn't want to bother the diners in the adjoining booths with strange sounds coming from mine nor did I want to end up with my shirt dotted with dark brown drips. The soup was so well balanced and while I wanted to finish it all, I simply couldn't. When my server returned to check on me, I admitted that I was finished and asked for the check.
All said and done, with tax and tip, my lunch today came to $18. This might be a tad expensive for some, but other than the greasy spring roll wrapper, everything else had really been spot on and delicious. The Fairlawn location can be quite busy during lunch, so I would recommend that you go prior to noon or after 1:00 PM. I showed up at 12:30 PM today and had about a five minute wait. I've been going to this particular House of Hunan for quite a long time (more than two decades) and the food has always been above average. Now that they've diversified their cuisine, I have even more reason to return for a great meal. I suggest that you do the same.