On the recommendation of a nice Chinese couple sitting at the table next to us on Chinese New Year's Eve at Noodle Chu in Parsippany on Route 46 (our current Dim Sum fave in the Morris County area), we were told we could find the genuine Shanghainese/Taiwanese item at the curiously named Hunan Cottage on Route 46 in Fairfield. This intrigued me.
We had never taken Hunan Cottage seriously because it looked like your basic American-style Chinese restaurant, we had passed by it by car several times over the last few years we had been living in this area, presumning we could find more authentic stuff in the area, like Noodle Chu, Ocean King (RT10 in Livingston) and the late Silver Pond. In fact, when we went in, there were a ton of ethnic Chinese eating there on the second night of Chinese New Year. Good sign.
As we sat down we were immediately given your typical, American chinese menu with standard chinese restaurant fare. I looked puzzedly at the hostess, and exclaimed loudly, "What about me saying NI HAO MA to you on our arrival did not tip you off we were serious?". Immediately, she apologized, and snatched the menus away. "Oh, you want the CHINESE menu. Very Sorry!". Be sure to ask for this right away if you go there.
The "Chinese" menu has lots of good stuff, lots of noodle, vegetable and seafood dishes, including crab and pork Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings). The menu is distinctively Shanghainese and Taiwanese, which is bizarre considering the restaurant's deceiving name. Apparently, the owner is from Shanghai and the chef is from Taiwan, but the chinese name of the restaurant is apparently reminiscent of a famous restaurant in Taiwan. Go figure.
Soup dumplings were juicy and had just the right mixture of crab and pork, with a nice savory broth inside. Definitely the genuine article, most of the patrons there had them on the other tables, so apparently this is what the place is known for. Also had "homestyle noodles with beef" which were sphagetti like, nice and chewy tossed with scallion and shredded beef and napa cabbage in a simple soy sauce, very good, as well as a pickled cabbage soup with pork, authentic and not overpoweringly sour. Scallion pancakes were a bit too chewy and doughy with not enough scallion. Rachel had the crispy deep fried half chicken with accompanying traditional soy/cilantro dipping sauce, very good. Also had bean curd skin stuffed with mushrooms over baby bok choy in a light gravy, also very good. Couple next to us had some kind of shanghainese fried lobster dish, looked excellent.
I feel bad that we didnt discover this place 3 years ago when we moved here, considering we are moving to Tenafly in March!