As a transplanted child of New York City, there are many things about Los Angeles I have come to love, respect and admire. L.A. Chinese food is not one of them.

For over a decade, I have choked down “Chinese” Chicken Salads (Don’t call it Chinese just because there’s some sesame oil and a wonton in there.) and low sodium, steamed, white meat only abominations to my palate. In truth, a trip to Panda Express is usually far more satisfying.

But then I found Hunan Café (7986 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles). Tucked between a supplement store and a cigar shop, dwarfed by the Virgin Megastore and the DGA, sits a West Coast restaurant that makes you feel like you are supping on 81st and Broadway.

Hunan Café is not fancy, and it’s not for the faint of heart. If you choose to dine in, you will leave wearing the fragrance of whatever hits the wok during your visit. The restaurant is tiny and the room is intoxicatingly filled with the smells of each new order as it is prepared.

Run by a husband and wife team, the husband mans the stove while the wife, Regina, attends to patrons. I’m not gonna lie … Regina’s a little nuts. On some days she’ll hug you and deliver your order radiating sunshine and dandelions. On other days, she’ll tell you you’re too fat to eat what you want, order for you and never bring you water. If you order to-go, and they’re busy, she might just say, “NO!” and hang up.

It’s a price happily paid. This is undeniably the best Chinese food in the city! And the best part is, the portions ensure that one order is large enough to be dinner one night, lunch the next day and maybe even leave a little for a midnight snack.

For anyone who has ever enjoyed East Coast Chinese food, there are three magic words; “Cold Sesame Noodles.” The mere mention sends chills of ecstasy down my spine and joy leaping to my heart. You will not find a better version than at Hunan Café.

Slippery, al dente noodles ($5.95) covered in a light, spicy, sesame dressing, chopped peanuts and scallions, offer an improvement on the overdressed peanut butter noodles you occasionally stumble upon in the Big Apple. The sautéed string beans ($8.25) are incomprehensibly delicious. Coated in a spice rub and dry fried in a wok that has been seasoned for decades, these are vegetables on a whole other playing field.

Of course, because this is Los Angeles, they offer low carb, white meat only, low sodium renditions of everything, and certain dishes even have the caloric breakdowns. You have your choice of a variety of meat, vegetable and sauce combinations, all healthfully prepared.

I was initially cynical, but one bite of the steamed chicken and broccoli in spicy garlic sauce ($8.95), and I was convinced. If I could be like Jared and eat that instead of subs all day, I would be on that diet forever.

Rumor has it (no pun intended) that Jennifer Aniston is a regular and is a huge fan of the Kung Pao Chicken ($8.95). This is not the greasy, over fried kind. Hunan Café’s General’s Chicken has 350 calories of tender cubed chicken, chopped vegetables and the wonders of the Wok. It’s the kind of dish that would make a breakup with Brad Pitt seem less earth shatteringly horrific.

And if it does the Aniston body good, it’ll do you right too. The trainer will be proud. Just make sure you’re nice to Regina when you order it or you will incur her wrath.

Or, perhaps, her attitude is all part of the ambience. Another taste of New York right here in Hollywood.



For more information, call (323) 822-1208.