Monday, June 22, 2009

Hunan Manor in Columbia

Hunan Manor is one of the basic ingredients of modern Howard County.

The Columbia restaurant serves good Chinese food, but, even more, it is an institution for people who have lived here. People went with their parents. They celebrated birthdays. They cherish the memories and their favorite meals. Hunan Manor is also a fount for local cuisine because its former owners and chefs left to start other restaurants, including the pan-Asian Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro and the authentic Chinese Grace Garden.

Both those joints exceed the original in my opinion, but Hunan Manor is still a nice restaurant. The dark wood and the carvings give it a classy casual feel. The kitchen does standard takeout, but it stretches for fresh fish dishes and Peking duck.  The menu is actually huge, and there is a photocopied supplement with authentic Chinese dishes with some pages translated into English.  They'll give you a copy if you ask.  Or email me, and I'll send you a copy.

In the end, Hunan Manor misses my Top 10 because I don't love all that Chinese food. There are delicious items. Chinese brocoli with a fresh taste and a light sauce. Chicken in oyster sauce with crisp water chestnuts. A pickle appetizer with fiery liquid flavoring spears of cucumber.

But other dishes suffer from the thick sauces that are far too common at Chinese restaurants. The crispy beef was horrible -- thin chewy slices of something that tasted of soft breading and sugary sauce. My wife and I split on the eggplant with ground pork from the Chinese menu. I was impressed by silky soft eggplant that held its shape and was flavored with something that I couldn't exactly place -- a little ground meat, maybe something fermented. I thought it was tasty both hot and then for lunch the next day. But I understood why the heavy sauce turned off Mrs. HowChow, who is extremely adventerous and didn't eat even a second forkful.

What are the best dishes at Hunan Manor?  I know this is a kitchen with real followers out there.  If you don't like Hunan Manor, where do you go for Chinese?

If you want more about the Chinese options nearby, check out my post about Chinese restaurants in Howard County.

Hunan Manor
7091 Deepage Drive
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: This is just off Snowden River Parkway just north of the intersection with Broken Land Parkway. From Rte 175, you can just go south on Snowden and turn right at the traffic light with a Manpower office next the Three Brothers Italian restaurant. That is Carved Stone Road.  Hunan Manor's red roof is a block up that road on the right.

Hunan Manor on Urbanspoon


Work in progress said...

My Hunan Manor roll call:
-Salt and pepper shrimp scallop and squid
-Salt and pepper shrimp (head-on)
-Crispy supreme eggplant
-Pea-par tofu
-Lobster in black bean sauce
-Any of the whole fish presentations

Shelley said...

My favorite dish is Sesame Shrimp. In my opinion, the food isn't as good as it used to be. I need to check out Grace Garden sometime. I have heard great things about it.

John G. Boyle said...

Hate to say it, but I've come away with a MAJORLY upset stomach the last two times I visited. Between that and then learning about some of their health code challenges, I'm steering clear for the foreseeable future.

CJB said...

I believe that Hunan Manor was an off-shoot from the older Hunan House in the Cherry Tree Center (Rt. 29 & 216). They operate still today and have been around before virtually any Columbia Chinese restaurant. Also not blown away with the Manor which has lost some of it's original quality.

For those with longer memories, there once was a Chinese restaurant in the Mall - upper level just off the large fountain escalator.

Still good food, large menu and one of the better choices in the area.

Anonymous said...

Although I don't know anything about authentic Chinese food, my favorite place to go is Best Hunan at the King's Contrivance village center. I have gone there for years and have never had a bad experience. I just wish I lived closer.

betsy said...

Is this the same owners as the Hunan Manor on 198 in Burtonsville? If so, check the menu for salt and jalepeno shrimp, and ask the wait staff about stir-fried chinese greens with garlic. I also love home style tofu (with red chili sauce.) These are mostly very simple, modest dishes...

sherringham said...

Went to Hunan House before I had moved to Columbia and fell in love with the lighter nature of their sesame chicken. It's still the best chinese food I've had anywhere. Moved to Columbia a few months ago and decided to try Hunan Manor due to it's proximity--not as good a Hunan House but still a head above most of the chinese food I've had.

I certainly recommend Hunan House, not to mention that they're always so pleasant there!

Mary said...

I've recently discovered that Katana Sushi is opening up quite a few new restaurants (sorry for getting off the topic of CHINESE food!). There's a new Elkridge location coming soon & the one in Clarksville has always been there. You guys should check it out & write a review! The pdf on their menu looks huge:

Sheri said...

Unfortunately, the last two times I've been to Hunan Manor, I've come away saddened that it's not what I remember.

Changing topics, here's a blog you gotta check out:

Cindy, the blogger, doesn’t sell anything on her site; what she does is showcase and discuss individual Asian foods she finds at Asian markets. Great photos, and good advice for the less adventurous among us!!

We're about to become much more adventurous, because starting in August, we'll have a Chinese college student staying with us!!

Anonymous said...

For authentic Chinese (including tasty dim sum) in HoCo I would go to Asian Court in the Chatham Mall shopping center. Another favorite is Hunan Legend in the Dorsey Hall shopping center, where the prep and sauces tend to be more balanced and fresher than some of the other places. Have to say I'm not a huge fan of Hunan Manor and think it has gone way downhill in recent years.

Anonymous said...

I use to go to Hunan Manor all the time but I haven't been back since the both ABC 2 report on them and report in the Sun about how they keep getting numerous health code violations against them. See the report here for details.

I have been following the reports on the Howard County Health Department site and they don't seem to be improving. Sounds like one of the typical restaurants that has a large number of foreign workers that don't know any better and the management doesn't force the issue.

Anonymous said...

Hunan is not what it used to be. The quality of the food has gone down hill. My last meal there the food did not taste fresh and was way over cooked (like something that's been warmed up multiple times in the microwave).
used to be our fav in columbia for chinese, but not anymore......