Wherever you go in New York City or the rest of the country, you will see many restaurants with "Hunan" in the name, but soon discover that the namesake province has little to do with the fare actually offered inside. A search for "Hunan" on Yelp.com for the city brings up 160 results, but it might be only Hunan House in Flushing that has a real sophisticated Hunan menu.
Skipping the first couple pages of the menu, we browsed the "house specialties" portion, which the waiter assured me was all Hunan fare. Our first selection, the shredded beef with spicy green pepper ($10.95, below) is a simple but effective dish doing exactly what it promotes. Hunan food is well known for its spiciness, but is more subtle than Sichuan and does not explode in your mouth the same way.
(Every fifth or sixth pepper would get you)
Seeing as how Hunan was the birthplace of Chairman Mao, the dish called braised pork, Mao's style ($10.95, below) immediately attracted me, and ended up being our favorite dish of the meal. The fatty and meaty combination on each piece reminded me a great deal of Colombian chicharron, but this was not deep fried so you could savor each fatty bite. The dish also included some soggy chestnuts and was all over a bed of fresh spinach. Both oily and salty, it kept us picking at our rice, which seemed to be a quality of all the food this day.
The last item in the house specials sounded very interesting, the sautéed pork green pepper with poached eggs ($8.95, below). Interestingly though, it was a vegetarian dish and the egg was fried. A Chinese reader amongst us commented that "pork" was nowhere in the Chinese name, which explained half of it at least. The egg was a bit boring in the end though, and the peppers were the only real taste popping through.
In general, I was expecting a more liberal use of peppers, but was not so disappointed as my nose was running, especially from the egg dish. I wonder if the amount of oil is typical of all Hunanese food, although I do not see it as a problem.