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REVIEW: Hunan Restaurant, Chinatown

Jonathand Schofield has a new Chinatown favourite

Written by . Published on October 24th 2014.


REVIEW: Hunan Restaurant, Chinatown
 

CHAIRMAN MAO, who was from Hunan province, apparently said, "You can't be a revolutionary unless you eat chillies." I know this because it's stated on the menu in Hunan restaurant, Chinatown. 

The drama takes place in an identikit Chinatown restaurant interior but you don’t even notice because the food is lighting bonfires in your mouth.

The Chinese young woman, also from Hunan, who was dining with us, said, "That man. He said many things, too many things." She was not being complimentary. 

But she's beginning to be typical.

Up the stairs to Hunan

Up the stairs to Hunan

There are signs the subjects of the People's Republic are becoming less guarded about their country, and not just in Hong Kong, as Simon Reeve's BBC documentary showed on Sunday 19 October - click here.

Our guest's words made more sense when you realise the Hunanese suffered more than most in Mao's ideological modernisation which resulted in the Great Famine and the deaths of twenty million.

Mao is being reassessed in the minds of many modern Chinese.

Er...

Damn.

Look what I've done.

I've broken the fifth rule of restaurant reviewing.

Never mention terrible hardship or worse, famine and genocide, in a food review when you're about to professionally stuff your face. Sounds shallow.

So forgive me and here's a musical interlude to take your mind off famine.

Back to reviewing.

Hunan Restaurant on George Street is a cracker. 

The colours, the flavours, the verve of the food make it standout. Of course, the drama takes place in an identikit Chinatown restaurant interior but you don’t even notice because the food is lighting bonfires in your mouth and dancing on the graves of bland rubbish. 

There was one sour note, a beer braised duck (£12) which was horrible. This comes with an inverted beer glass containing a centimetre of beer, surrounded by heaped up food. You lift the glass and beer gushes out. You're supposed to be rewarded "with a summer flavour of freshness", instead it tastes like you've poured yesterday's stale, flat Carlsberg Special Brew on last night's Chinese takeaway, possibly after someone dropped their fag ash into the can.

But there was no more bad news at Hunan. None.

A very lush pig from the Chairman's tableA very lush pig from the Chairman's table

Mao’s red-braised pork (£6.80), was a gloriously succulent, fleshy treat, lively, heated, and very easy eating.

But it couldn't compare with the spicy velvet crab Hunan style (£28) - one of the more expensive dishes but one that two or three people could use as a base to arrange other plates of food around.

This was magnificent and displayed all the bold heat of the regional style; they love chillies in Hunan. But in the stock here there was also star anise, coriander, garlic, cabbage, celery and more chillis with, of course, loads of crab.  

Velvet crab gives its gifts

 

Velvet crab gives its gifts

This was fighting crab, you had to tussle with hands and exotic implements to extract the meat. The rest you had to spoon up like a soup, it was thrilling eating although it took an enjoyable week or two to complete the whole vast dish.

The restaurant thoughtfully provided plastic gloves to stop hands getting messed up and there was a small forest of napkins required to avoid white shirts being soiled. 

Almost as thrilling was the spicy salmon head at £9.80, again a rich, burning, blast of a dish that somehow contained subtle flavours too.  

Spicy salmon head with an exciting range of chilli action

 

Spicy salmon head with an exciting range of pepper action

The rabbit dish for around £8 was good even if it was fiddly getting to the flesh, but better than the rabbit were the cold dishes. Hunanese food might be best-known for being scorchio but it can have great subtlety as well, especially with the veggie creations. Meat-deniers should try it out.

The stir-fried potato strips with red pepper (£4.80) and the kelp in soy sauce and garlic (£3.80) were both immensely enjoyable. The cold kelp worked wonders with the heat providing a mouth-calming exercise.

Kelp is at hand

Kelp is at hand

The menu is a joy to read and invites return visits: duck neck, stir-fried Hunan smoky bacon with turnip, braised pigs feet with garlic and chilli, sauteed ducks gizzard, frogs legs, tripe with white nut and Chinese leaves, aromatic crispy pigs intestines, hand-torn cabbage with vinegar.

Then there was 'eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog, adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, lizard's leg, and howlet's wing'...oh dear, I'm getting confused with Macbeth

The menu even sings of 'pigs delicacies' - I was too delicate to ask. And there's even a dish called 'ants climbing a tree' (£6.80). The Chinese will famously eat anything but I'm guessing this is poetic licence. 

I will be back to Hunan very very soon. I adored the place and if nothing else it taught me never to put cold lager into hot food. And reminded me not to break the fifth rule of food reviewing.

Let's finish with more music. This from Chinese band, Hedgehog, reminds me of how my mouth felt after all the chillis: invigorated.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 

ALL OUR SCORED FOOD REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY MANCHESTER CONFIDENTIAL. REVIEW VISITS ARE UNANNOUNCED AND COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT OF ANY COMMERICAL RELATIONSHIP.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 

Hunan, First Floor, 19-21 George Street, City centre. M1 4HE. 0161 832 0708

Rating: 14/20
Food: 7.5/10 (kelp 6.5, belly pork 8, fish heads 8, crab 8.5, beer thingy 5, rabbit 6.5, potato strips 7)
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 3/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing, 14-15 worth a trip, 16-17 very good, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

Potato and chilli strips and my gloves for the crab

Potato and chilli strips and my gloves for the crab

Up to one's neckUp to one's neck

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25 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Poster BoyOctober 22nd 2014.

Avoid the bat...

pollolocoOctober 23rd 2014.

Ants climbing a tree...isn't that a famous Szechuan minced pork and green bean dish?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldOctober 23rd 2014.

It is indeed.

pollolocoOctober 23rd 2014.

it's not a veggie dish then.

Jonathan SchofieldOctober 23rd 2014.

It is if you just eat the beans. But I get your drift. Altered. Thanks

Jon GarrettOctober 23rd 2014.

I agree the best I've had in China Town for ages! Nicely spiced and we managed to get another meal from the doggie bag, kindly provided! Even the normally bland side-dish of egg fried rice is spiced up with a delicious chilli edge.

Hero
GordoOctober 25th 2014.

I sent Tom Parker-Bowles here last Thursday, saying thanks, he said"thanks for Hunan, top notch". I ate with the Cafe Football guys over in the Yang Sing, Harry is on form as well.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 25th 2014.

If you gonna name drop,the idea is it someone at least someone might have heard of.

pollolocoOctober 27th 2014.

Harry's hardly ever there.

Trish KarneyOctober 27th 2014.

Yang Sing? Trading off past glories more than Cilla Black!

pollolocoOctober 27th 2014.

yes, but good advertiser and they've got xmas parties to sell!!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Hero
GordoOctober 27th 2014.

you on drugs?

AnonymousOctober 27th 2014.

Why, are you selling some Mark?

pollolocoOctober 28th 2014.

Just like Rosso....

Hero
GordoOctober 28th 2014.

Pollo, who are the good advertisers and what xmas parties do they have ton sell and whats the relevance to this article?

pollolocoOctober 31st 2014.

Can't move for Rosso ads on this site....mind, it's getting more like Cheshire Life every day...

Mark R Garner The PublisherOctober 31st 2014.

Oh dear me Pollo, you are soooo predictable. How do you think we pay the 20 people who keep this site running? Don't answer that, you're a boring whinger.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 2nd 2014.

I still think there's an issue with the promotional content. I mean, the editorial guidelines you have made to clarify things can actually confuse them more. Are we meant to take anything in the promotional content seriously? Re Spicy Lounge piece, do the team at MC actually stand behind:"Punters as well as critics rate them highly – this [Spicy Lounge] is a place we hear recommended again and again." or that 'It's now a vibrant, eclectic space that feels more Northern Quarter than Curry Mile.'? If not, why should readers care read it at all? And I'm not looking for an aggressive arsey response, it's a legitimate question if you're serving content up on the home page but are making claims you're not willing to stand behind.

AnonymousNovember 2nd 2014.

And if you do maybe you should allow comments on these pieces.

pollolocoNovember 3rd 2014.

what's really boring and predicatble is your constant arse kissing with San Carlo group....I'm sure it'll be the same with Rosso from now on. In the MEN they are offering £100 cash to get punters in....desperate times indeed.

Mark R Garner The PublisherNovember 3rd 2014.

Anon above, supply me with your identity and I will engage with you. markg (@) theconfidentials.co.uk and I shall engage with you. Otherwise I shall request that your comments be removed. We've done this to death.

Mark R Garner The PublisherNovember 3rd 2014.

Pollo. *yawn* *yawn* *yawn*

DarrenNovember 3rd 2014.

I've constantly read articles on here mocking the rich and famous for only ever going to San Carlo's, practically begging them to do some exploring and visit other restaurants in town. So it's hardly arse kissing is it?

pollolocoNovember 3rd 2014.

have you....where?

1 Response: Reply To This...
DarrenNovember 3rd 2014.

There was one a few weeks ago about LVG and his wife having the nous to eat somewhere that wasn't San Carlo. Shame he didn't have the sense to not pick Chris Smalling at the weekend.

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