Hunan Chinese Restaurant in Elizabethton can easily lay claim to being the oldest Chinese restaurant in Carter County. My family has enjoyed Chinese meals at this local eatery for at least 20 years. Hunan has always provided a reliable destination for a variety of well-prepared Chinese dishes.
I recently enjoyed a weeknight evening dinner with a friend. We noticed that some elements of the restaurant’s interior design had been updated in the past year or two. A brown-and-white tile floor and white walls, including a white wallpaper with a bamboo motif, brighten the interior of the restaurant. Potted palms and bamboo add a touch of vibrant green. Decorative wall panels depicting phoenix and dragon figures and hanging Chinese lanterns provide some ornamental touches to the casual dining area at Hunan. Other decorative items, including porcelain and jade figurines, are displayed on shelves. Seating is available at both booths and tables. The chairs and benches of the booths are upholstered with black vinyl.
Hunan’s menu offers a diverse range of items in such categories as beef, poultry, seafood and pork. The menu features Chef Specialties, such as General Tso’s Chicken, Stir-fried Scallops and Shrimp, Bora Bora Steak and Peppercorn Chicken. The menu also offers lobster prepared in three distinct styles, as well as Chop Suey, Chow Mein, Egg Foo Young and several variations on Fried Rice. Other menu categories include beef, poultry, seafood, noodles and vegetable dishes.
We began our meal with a bowl of soup.
I’ve long considered the Hot and Sour Soup at Hunan’s one of the best versions of this soup at any Chinese restaurant in the region. The Hunan’s version of this soup has a zesty, peppery flavor that will definitely waken your taste buds.
On this visit, however, my friend and I decided to share the House Special Soup. This soup consists of a rich, clear broth with strips of tender white chicken and plump shrimp and a medley of fresh, crisp vegetables, including broccoli, mushrooms, carrots and snow peas.
The server ladled up the first two bowls of this soup for my dining companion and me. She also delivered a bowl of crispy fried wontons. We soon served ourselves second helpings of this fresh-tasting soup, finishing off this course of the meal as we considered some appetizer options.
My friend and I decided to share an appetizer from the menu and considered such options as Fried Chicken Wings, Crab Rangoon, Chicken Yakitori, Paper Wrap Chicken, Barbecued Spare Ribs and Crisp Shrimp Toast.
We both decided to have one egg roll each and to share an order of the Crab Rangoon. This appetizer consists of six wontons filled with cream cheese, crab meat, scallions and other seasonings, twisted into blossom shapes and deep-fried. These tasty morsels were served with a sweet red sauce.
I like to add a little hot mustard to my egg rolls, but my dining companion enjoyed dipping his egg roll in the same sauce that was served with the Crab Rangoon.
After enjoying these tasty items, we turned our attention to our main dishes. For large dining groups, consideration might be given to the restaurant’s Family Style Dinners, which are geared for couples as well as parties of three, four and five individuals. These meals include a soup, appetizer, entree, Chinese tea and fortune cookies for a fixed price per diner. The menu also includes some vegetarian options for diners interested in that availability.
I focused my attention on several of the Chef’s Specialties, including the Green Jade Scallops and the Sesame Chicken. I also considered the Curry Beef, Chicken Cashew and Shrimp in Garlic Sauce. Since I had trouble making up my mind, I chose a dish — Subgum War Bar — that featured several ingredients.
My dining partner chose the Roasted Duck with Lychee, although he considered some seafood options, including the Szechuan Shrimp and Scallops in Garlic Sauce.
The server arrived promptly with a dish of rice, followed by our main dishes.
In addition to the medley of shrimp, pork, beef and chicken, my dish featured ample portions of broccoli, snow peas, mushrooms and sliced carrots served in a tasty brown sauce. This dish arrived in dramatic fashion, sizzling on a metal platter.
My dinner partner’s dish consisted of half a crispy, roasted duck cut into pieces and served with snow peas, sliced carrots and a sweet sauce made with lychees, a fruit with a flavor reminiscent of pears that has been cultivated for centuries in many Asian nations.
The portions served at Hunan have remained generous over the years, and we all ended up taking some home in carryout boxes. We concluded our meal by breaking open our fortune cookies, which provided all the dessert we wanted after such a filling meal.
The restaurant offers a good selection of daily lunch specials and appears to enjoy a brisk business with carryout orders. The next time you find yourself wanting some Chinese food, make a trip to Hunan Chinese Restaurant in Elizabethton.
AT A GLANCE: Hunan Chinese Restaurant, 361 W. Elk Ave., Elizabethton. 542-6112. Sunda
y, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.;
Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; and Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Dinner entrees range from $5.95-$19.95. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available.