Hankow Cuisine re-introduces food from Hubei to the Bay Area, something we have not seen since the closure of Grandview restaurant in 2007. Hankow is one of three cities that merged to form Hubei's capital, Wuhan, and it sits along the intersection of the Han and Yangtze rivers.
They have cold appetizers, a few types of noodle dishes, clay pot noodles, and BBQ items. Get the paper menu, which makes it easier to keep track of BBQ items, and because it has a few more options than the laminated menu. Four items that list Hankow or Wuhan in the Chinese names for dishes, including:
(Hankow) Secret duck neck
(Hankow) Chicken feet
(Wuhan) Dou pi ("bean skin")
(Hankow) secret lamb pot
Half the menu is dedicated to BBQ/skewers, and as far as I can tell, the spice mixture is the same across items and contains cumin and ground chilies. The items I ordered weren't very charred, but were flavorful and tender. The lamb meat had a spongy tenderness similar to pork jowls. The chicken gizzard was surprisingly tender, and the lotus root was rather dry. Most tables had chicken feet skewers, which the menu indicates are a Wuhan specialty, and I'd recommend them. The "carob" is actually yard long beans and those come plated rather than on skewers. The "steamed bread" uses steamed buns dough, but are shaped and sized like a deck of cards. The bread is grilled on both sides and is coated in the reddish spice mixture they use for the other grilled items--- good stuff, but I prefer the version at SF's Made in China, who are more aggressive in their spicing and charring and add, I believe, some sugar for caramelization.
The bean curd strips salad uses the spaghetti-like kind of bean curd and a dressing. I'm not a fan of bean curd strips, so this salad wasn't for me.
The Hankow beef noodle soup had an intense and meaty broth, and was topped with a roasted chili oil. I didn't notice any MSG, but there was an onion-powder-like aftertaste. Try asking for wide noodles-- they weren't listed, but I noticed them on one online picture. The other noodle specialty seems to be the "hot dry noodles" ( re-gan mian, 熱乾麵)) which the server said contains sesame paste and a spice mixture-- I didn't sample any, but about half the restaurant had ordered these.
The "Dou pi," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doupi was my favorite dish of the meal. A skin made from mung bean starch clung to a top layer of sticky ("glutinious") rice, which itself topped a layer of chopped shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots (IIRC). There's also some diced pork. Lots of umami and great texture-- the snap from the mung beans skin and the layering benefits the texture in ways you don't get in a Zongzi http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9741... or Lo mai gai http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lo_mai_gai .
The restaurant is small and, on a Friday night, had a mixture of families and young people. The servers are attentive. I would recommend getting an order of the Beijing style yogurt. The food is not ridiculously hot, but sipping yogurt through a straw helped me weather the dry spices.
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