Hunan – Collingswood/Westmont

[Most] Chinese takeouts are like fast food restaurants – convenience rates over quality. One Saturday night, after my plans had been suddenly canceled, I found myself on my own for dinner. Standing in Cook’s Liquor store, the rumble in my tummy told me I didn’t have long before the hunger-induced grumpiness set in. So I looked for the closest food source and settled on Hunan, which is located a few strip-mall doors down from Cook’s.

Bypassing the small group of teenagers perpetually gathered outside somewhere between the water ice stand and the restaurant, I entered a typical takeout joint. Not much in the way of ambiance, but who needs mood lighting and soft music when ordering General Tso’s to go? Not feeling too adventurous, and not having much luck in other nearby Chinese restaurants, I ordered standard fare – shrimp fried rice and crab and cheese wontons. The service was polite and fast, and my food was ready in just a few minutes. I’ll give Hunan bonus points for the condiments table next to the register, allowing me to grab as many soy sauce/duck sauce/spicy mustard packets as I needed.

I’m terribly glad I grabbed those flavor-enhancing condiments. Without them, my shrimp fried rice tasted like bland fried mush. I have never tasted anything so incredibly flavorless in my life. I’ve had white bread with more nuance than this. Two packets of soy sauce and spicy mustard were barely enough to trick my taste buds into comprehending that it was food I was putting in my mouth, not shredded Styrofoam.

I didn’t fare much better with the wontons. The fried dough was a nice mix of crispy and soft, but the filling turned me off. Though infinitely more flavorful than the rice, the cream cheesy filling was overly sweet and liquidy. This appetizer came with a side of sweet and sour sauce for dipping, but I didn’t even bother.

I don’t think my expectations were too high for Hunan, but I am surprised that they couldn’t even get the fried rice right. Such a miss gives me little hope for the rest of their menu, so until we find a better choice, we’ll be sticking to the all vegetarian Chinese restaurant, Greenhouse (review to come).

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