Except for some additional decorative lamps and paintings of Biàn Liǎn, those "face changing" masks, the place looks the same as on my last visit. Though, those masks are usually found in Sichuan.....so maybe they were just leftover from the previous restaurant?
Speaking of Sichuan....the menu has a mixture of Sichuan, Hunan, some oddball dishes like Lion's Head Meatballs and Egg Foo Young (?!?), and a whole column of totally "ABCDE" (American-Born-Chinese-Dining-Establishment) dishes.
Go figure. There's one soft-spoken, sweet young lady who works here, but everyone....I counted a total of 9 staff on one of my visits is very nice.
On my first visit; a solo affair, I waned two dishes. I went down looking for typical Hunan dishes and they were out of just about everything. I did get something with La Rou. Though it wasn't my favorite La Rou with Suan Do (or even the three smoked meats - La Wei He Zheng ) which is on the menu, but a version with dried bamboo shoots.
In terms of flavor this was much better than what I've had from Village Kitchen. And while some of the pork was on the chewy side, the flavor was spot on; smoky-salty, the rehydrated bamboo crunchy. Peasant food, I took this home and it reminded the Missus of Her grandparents in Hunan.....a bit of salty, slightly spicy La Rou with a lot of rice. The spice level left something to be desired....though we tend to enjoy the heat level at places like Hunan Chilli King.
So I had worked my way through some of the dishes and struck out; so the nice young lady told me to order something called "Pork Belly w/ Preserved Napa in Brown Sauce" ($11.65). Not sure what this was going to be; I chuckled when it arrived at the table....it was Mei Cai Kou Rou; which, correct me if I'm wrong, is more of Hakka dish.
There was one thing fairly true to the Hunan taste. This lacked any sweetness at all. Not much saltiness either....just kind of bland and the mei cai was too hard a chewy. The pork belly had been done decently, it was "chopstick tender", but this was quite bland for my taste. I thought that even Facing East made a superior version of this dish.
Anyway, I took the Smoked Pork dish home and the Missus really enjoyed the left-overs, so not feeling like cooking one evening, we headed back. Looking over the menu for dishes we struck out again. The Missus wanted some Liang Cai - cold dishes, and it was no Bueno; no pork ear, chicken feet, duck tongue....so we ended up with a total routine Bean Curd Skin.
Basically bean curd skin, nice and crunchy, in a decent Chili Peppercorn Oil. Though this tasted like something I'd make at home.
We tried to order the La Rou with Dry Beans again, but still no Bueno and got the version with bamboo, which ironically, is not on the menu.
We wanted a vegetable dish, but after trying a couple of items from the menu that wasn't available; we got the Leek with Shredded Lotus Root ($8.65).
We both enjoyed this simple dish; the lotus root nice and crunchy, though the pungent chives gives the Missus heartburn. I'll probably end up making something similar at home in the near future.
One weekend afternoon, needing a late lunch; like 230pm, Village North was closed so we decided to head back to Beauty Hunan. Where we tried for the Smoke Pork with Dry Beans again....and again ended up with the version with Dried Bamboo, which the Missus enjoyed anyway.
Looking at the menu, I noticed something called "Preserved Egg and Eggplant with Jalapeno" ($11.65). I asked the Missus and She said that yes indeed, this is the same dish that we enjoy at Village Kitchen. Hmmm....I'm wondering.....
This was a fairly large portion size, and while spicier than the version at Village Kitchen, it is not as well executed. Not nearly as creamy, some of the pieces of eggplant were huge and not as tender, and without that nice earthiness of the eggplant and light sulfuric touch of the preserved egg.
Pretty much at a lost, we decided to just get the Dry Cooked Pork Intestine ($12.65) which was much to salty and not very spicy.
The intestine was not cleaned very well and was too rubbery and we did without a doubt miss the "ma" (numbing) sensation of the Sichuan version of this dish. We did enjoy the Chinese celery in this, but that's about it.
So, I'm not sure if or when Beauty Hunan will have it's full on menu. right now it's a "one-trick-pony" for us. The customer demographic is kind of interesting; a lot of guys ordering the "ABC" dishes during my lunch visits, interspersed with young folk ordering stuff like the Dry Pot items. We thought the service was nice, not perfect, but really nice young folk. I'm not sure when I'll be back for a full meal....though I think the Missus is going to want the La Rou from here.....in whatever form the have it.
Beauty Hunan Restaurant
8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92111