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Hunan Gate, Northeastern Chinese in Ballston With An Online Chinese-Chinese Menu


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I don't remember how I heard about this joint.  It could've been Tyler Cowen, or it could've been Chowhound.  We ordered from the Chinese menu, which has pretty pictures and English translation.  We had some mapo fish with tofu ($14), cumin lamb, ($14) pot stickers ($7), and hand scratch pan cake ($4).  The cumin lamb arrived first, along with its body odor-like smell.  Luckily it tasted much better than it smells.  The lamb had some gaminess, but the cumin and chili peppers did a good job of covering that up.  Other than 1 particularly chewy piece, the lamb was tender and plentiful.  The mapo fish with tofu arrived on a plate rather than a bowl.  The tofu was tender and the fish was not the least bit fishy.  The more I ate of it, the more I enjoyed it.  At first it was just spicy and salty but I detected more flavor as I continued shoveling the stuff down my throat.  The pot stickers were nothing special, the dough being rather thick.  The pan cake didn't have any flavor.  A decent authentic Chinese joint (which makes it 10x better than any American Chinese restaurant in my book).  They also have a buffet but I didn't see what was on there.

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A decent authentic Chinese joint (which makes it 10x better than any American Chinese restaurant in my book).

Any idea of the province(s)?

I've never seen a live-updated menu before, but the Chinese-Chinese menu here is (it takes a minute or so). That, along with the pictures, makes it hugely valuable for carryout.

I've seen Hunan Gate a million times, have never set foot in the door, and my gut feeling is that it's a pretty underrated restaurant - especially because one man's liability (body odor, gaminess) is another man's asset. :)

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For what it's worth, Steve likes the cumin lamb here better than HKP. IIRC, the cumin lamb at HKP is pretty desiccated, which is why I prefer the cumin fish. I love HKP. I'm not as excited above this place because dumplings are a northeastern specialty but the potstickers here were very mediocre.

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Yes, the dumplings were the biggest let down of the meal, and made worse by having to wait so long for them (they were the last dish that arrived and did so after we had finished everything else).

Not only do I prefer the way the lamb is cooked at Hunan Gate as opposed to HKP, but I also liked the balance of cumin to other flavors. This dish was really made by the addition of slightly cooked sweet onions, the slightly firm texture played off the meat, and the sweet balanced the heat.

This was a great discovery because I may be spending quite a bit of August working across the street from the restaurant, and while there are plenty of restaurants in Ballston the picking for a decent and affordable lunch is sparse.

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Fascinating. I've probably eaten there 25 times over a loooooooooooooong period of time simply because of convenience and having a hankering for some kind of Chinese for the moment, not considering quality or any other attribute.

and btw: It was never memorable.

In all that time I never realized or focused on the Chinese or Mandarin menu. A real find!!!!!

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and btw: It was never memorable.

I think that you could say the same thing about the Americanized part of the menu at HKP or even the westernized portion of the Thai Golden menu.

I can remember going into the Chinese restaurant near where I grew up and saw a Chinese family eating dishes that I could not match to anything on the menu.

I am happy to see that there are now Chinese restaurants that are either offering a non-ized menu and offering it up in English. I just wish that my old stand-by did the same - they actually did pretty good Americanized Chinese - sadly they have long since closed.

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The cumin lamb arrived first, along with its body odor-like smell.

OH THANK GOD. I thought I was the only who thought that about cumin.

I've always wondered about this place, as it's right next to Marshall's house, so I'll have to give it a shot.

Sthitch: while you're in the area, if you'd like to grab a drink (or food while I drink), drop me a note. I promise to wear pants, unless you come wearing a DonRocks outfit, in which case they may be discarded.

(PS: Had a good date tonight and might be a bit tipsy now)

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Matt and I were in last week for a meal here as we were both craving Chinese and didn't want to go far.  I got the meat in handmade noodles off the chinese menu.  Garlic broccoli and Matt got Sichuan beef.  Matt's beef didn't have any kick to it, I think we got the white people version which was disappointing.  My noodles and meat sauce were delicious.  This is my normal dish.  It wasn't quite as spicy even though I told them I liked spicy food.  But I like the peppers and sauce with the noodles, which are definitely thick rustic noodles, but in a good way.  We also had pork dumplings which were fine.  The real stunner in a bad way was the broccoli, way too much soy sauce.  This place is normally pretty consistent for us, but I feel like the other night was a bit of a mis-step.  

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Our last visit to Hunan Gate was much better than before.  First they gave us the pre-meal celery and carrot in sesame seed oil snacks.  I got noodles with meat sauce again, it had a little more heat this time and was excellent.  Matt got cumin beef which was also really tasty, although we left a huge pile of onions on the plate.   We also got an order of Sichuan string beans.  Theirs are not as good at Bob's Shanghai, but still good, the sauce is dryer with more garlic.  After the meal we got the hot towels and etc.  It just seemed they were more into us than our last visit.  

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Any other suggestions for a non-beef eater? Going tonight. Gonna really get my eat on.

S

I like the pork and sour napa dumplings, as well, Matt doesn't like the sour napa so I never get them when we go together, but I like tang they have. Someone at the table next to us had pork and sour napa (not the dumplings) which looked good last time I was there.   I also like their homemade noodle soup, I forget what protein is used.  I like the northern style mooshu pork. There was a chow lunch there a long time ago where I tried more of the menu: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/876046  it's an old post, but I don't think the food has changed a lot.  I think Steve had another report on Chow regarding another lunch he had there with a chow group.

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More recent posts must be in dining in Ballston.  Hubby and I probably end up here every other month, last night was another order of cumin beef, it was really good (the chef was definitely on last night), I got the pork with thin rice noodles- this tasted a lot like the pork sauce for mapo tofu with thin rice noodles and no tofu.  It also had sichuan pepper though and had a nice tingle spice to it.  We really liked the dish, I hadn't seen it on the menu before (they rearranged the Chinese menu with pictures, and I swear they have added stuff).  We also got Chinese broccoli in garlic sauce.  Everything was good, and I am excited for leftovers.

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Aww man, Hunan Gate was firing on all cylinders for take out on Sunday night.  It may have been one of the best take out meals I have had from there.  We got hand pulled noodles with meat sauce, Szechuan string beans, dumpling with pork and sour napa, and cumin lamb.  The dumplings have a decidedly thick skin, they aren't the best dumpling wrappers, but I really like the sour napa filling and the slightly sour flavor really balanced the meal as a whole.  I should learn how to make these.  The cumin lamb was excellent, the hand pulled noodle sauce was really good and these noodles are kind of thick with some chew, but nicely cooked and balanced out the decidedly spicy string beans (very good, but def spicy- lived up to their namesake), and mala of the cumin lamb.  Everything was super hot and fresh.  The lovely lady who manages the place remembered me when I called to place my order, and said she had missed us.  We miss Hunan Gate, as well.  This might be one of the places we miss the most from our former address.  

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