I've made positive noises on the board about this place on several occasions, based on my experiences of a few years ago. Tonight, since we were going out to dinner, I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and give it another look.
When we got there about 7:00, I immediately pushed my wife and stepdaughter through the door before Mrs. Soup had a chance to peruse the menu posted in the window and declare that it was "too expensive" (which she usually does for any place that's not rock-bottom price-wise). We quickly found ourselves seated in a room that, save for a central round table of what looked and sounded like ABC's, was full of well-scrubbed, well dressed Caucasians. Hmmm...
When the menus came, my irascible stepdaughter got us started off on the wrong foot by announcing that she wanted the Sweet and Sour Pork, even though she's been sheltered from such depredations most of her life in both Shanghai and San Francisco (I wondered what kind of promiscuities she's been indulging in). Mrs. Soup chose a soup with shrimp and tofu and a dish of pork slivers with shreds of tofu "cake." Not letting the ordering get away from me, I ordered Hunan Smoked Pork (specifying that I wanted it very spicy)and decided we needed a chicken dish. I was headed for the crispy chicken, but the server volunteered that the "Spicy Garlic Chicken" was very good and I acceded.
The soup started off delicately tasty, but finished with an ominous corn starch heaviness.
Xiao Nianpi's Sweet and Sour Pork was of the All-American class, with the obligatory pineapple chunks, onions and green pepper in an overly sweet sauce. At least the pork was lean and gristle-free.
My Hunan Smoked Pork was tasty and honestly spiced, but it was a stingy portion of meat buried in an excess (in quantity and variety) of vegetables, kind of a spicy chop suey pork.
The "Gan Pong" chicken appeared to be have invented in General Zhou's kitchen. It had plenty of sesame seeds comically adhering to the cornstarch coating, but was neither spicy nor did it have any discernible garlic flavor.
The shredded tofu cake with pork was the only bright spot in the meal. It was discreetly spicy in a "yu xiang" kind of way and any aspiring vegetable "padding" was held at bay.
Hunan Home's (LOSE THAT APOSTROPHE!) is bright and clean, and I'll keep tonight's experience on file for the next visit by my brother from Syracuse.
622 Jackson at Kearny