Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King
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House Of Hunan

posted by in Asian, Restaurants

braised pork

This restaurant is one of those hidden in plain sight, obvious to all but seen only by a few.

Profound beginning to this article yes, but I can’t believe that I’ve been within spitting distance of this restaurant, yet have never been here. I owe it all to my two intrepid foodie friends, N and J, masters at seeking out culinary gems that fly below the radar. The place is officially called TopSpice Restaurant – I say “officially” because that’s what it says on their business card; “unofficially” but also more popularly known as Hunan Lutong Bahay, the place has a bogus website (www.topspice.com), no signboard, and limited parking – unless you’re a pro at parallel.

The interiors are in stark contrast to the outside – homey, peaceful, with sanded-down tables and chairs that remind me of a similar set that I bought in SM when I was first married. The menu is a collation of developed photos – ‘Kodak Royal Printing’ it states on the back. (My god, when was the last time I had photos developed?) But thank goodness for this album of illustrated choices; menus are posted on the wall written in Chinese characters (!)

mapo tofu

scallion pancake

Because none of us are in a binging mood, we order lightly: mapo tofu, scallion pancake, pork dumplings, braised pork and steamed buns for dipping, as well as eggplant hotpot. (Yes, this is a light meal). As its name denotes, what’s served here is Hunan cuisine, the more peppery, pungent partner of the more famous Sichuan/Szechuan cuisine from which kung pao chicken, deep-fried green beans in pepper, tea-smoked duck, and mapo dofu originate.

steamed dumplings

Hunan Province is in southeastern China, an area that experiences cold winters and high humidity. Thus, its food is incendiary, Chinese belief being that, “… when you eat pepper you sweat and cleanse yourself.” Philippine tastes dictate that spice levels be radically revised – my pork dumplings, in itself tasty, was made better when dipped into the accompanying dark soy sauce to which I add a saucer-ful of chili paste. If you prefer heat like I do, then don’t be shy asking for heaps of the stuff; the servers are accommodating. If you’ve ever been to Mien San in San Juan, the dumplings there are reminiscent of those here in Hunan Lutong Bahay.

talong - Jeeves
photo credit: Jeeves

Another characteristic of Hunan cuisine is its reliance on stewing and braising, slow-cooking methods that achieve a particular softness. Best exemplified in the various hotpots which you must try if you come to this restaurant, the eggplant hot pot is my favorite dish. Other hotpots here include beef, tofu, intestines, chicken, and duck. A mere P200 proffers a dark, oily (again, characteristic of Hunan food) broth in which braised eggplants are bathed in chili — peppers, paste, and oil. I dig deep into the pot to scoop out the sauce underneath, excellent for sloshing onto rice and dipping the steamed buns into.

braised pork - jeeves
photo credit: Jeeves

While the mapo tofu is grossly underwhelming, so is the scallion pancake, an overly eggy, slap-flat disc desperately in need of leavening. The braised pork is thankfully, quite the opposite. Sitting atop a mound of cured mustard greens, each slice is evocatively arranged – depending on the angle, it reminds me of gently lapping waves or the curls of my 7th grade perm.

hunan kitchen

Since Hunan Lutong Bahay is a house, it makes sense that at times, I feel like I’m in a house. Rice is unlimited but you must get up and go to the kitchen to scoop it yourself. Drinking water comes in these recycled 2-liter softdrink plastic bottles, and when those are empty, head to the kitchen to ask for a refill. Because the place seats only 20 at best – beyond that and you’re asking to be seated on someone’s lap – the acoustics are truly overwhelming. I listen to several conversations simultaneously while carrying my own with N and J. This place is a true find – it’s not often I’ll waddle out the door for a mere P800 bill split amongst four people. I highly recommend that you don’t come here at night, or at least avoid the dinner rush hour because there’s not a seat to be found then.

~~
Hunan Lutong Bahay
6404 Camia St., Makati (near Rockwell and Metroclub)
0915 4252972 / 0927 7876999
Open Monday-Sunday, 10am-10pm.

15 Responses to “House Of Hunan”

  • Lori, do you mind telling us which city Camia St is located?

    Marites,
    Noted and done.

    –lori

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  • This place is great! I never even knew it had a name- we just always called it 6404 camia.

    Try the hot pot duck and the chili chicken next time you go. :)

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  • wow! inexpensive food near rockwell! yay! also, i’ve noticed this before but thought it was just a coincidence… until today. you and anton both just blogged about this resto, so unless he’s the N you mentioned here… is it really just coincidence?

    Hi Cher,
    I don’t think I’ve ever shared a meal with Anton, and no, he’s not the “N” mentioned in this article.
    –lori

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  • sarap ng tofu! yung pork dumplings din! may recipe ba? hehe.. xlinks tayo? nasa blogroll na kita.. tnx! more power!

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  • The food looks great.. It should taste good as well…

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  • Jeeves takes very nice pictures, Lori.

    That he does, Aina. :)
    –lori

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  • OMG that cuapao looks amazing. I was searching for places to have dinner tonight… i think this is it!!!! Thanks Lori!

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  • Thanks for the reco, Lori! I visited it right away and was very happy ;-)

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  • I absolutely love this restaurant. Try the twice cooked pork with tofu and the fried ox’s inside (oxtripe) and yes, everyone’s favorite, the hotpot duck.

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  • ate there last week. server to me: “kahit anong gawin niyo, hwag kayo magbibigay ng tip”. which was repeated throughout the meal. apparently, the owners get the money you leave behind as well (of course i asked why). good food, though :)

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  • the fried lamb is very tasty but not too spicy and goes very well with their ice cold Tsingtao beer. u feel like a tourist cuz the customers are mostly from mainland china. love it. hunanese cusisine is great.

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  • Aww shucks (re pics).

    Went Back For Dinner today to Topspice. Really need more than two people to eat there properly. Tried the Tofu and Pechay soup. Kinda bland but does go well when eaten with the stronger flavors of the other dishes.

    Servings are just too massive to share between two people or you’ll just be forced to order just one dish.

    Anyway, look forward to the next m-eating. Sooner than later… >;)

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  • Thanks, this has been very helpful.

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  • Looked for it. Found it. Didn’t like it. The twice cooked pork was indeed tender but only because it was sliced so thinly. It was bland and dried out. The spareribs we ordered was spare indeed! They were more like a few battered bones. Plus, I heard the waitress warn the group after us that the spareribs were “matigas.” And where was this vital information when she was taking our order 20m minutes ago?! She told us it was one of their best sellers. The hotpot eggplant wasn’t bad. Wasn’t great though at Php 180. They have bottomless rice though, if that’s enough to float your boat.
    Hey you win some, you lose some, right?

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  • I am surprised why no one commented about the fish head dish which was truly glorious. A generous serving of a big mayamaya fish head done in spicy sauce. Wonderful treat and good value for money.
    To get there walk through Rockwell Road past Estrella St. where the name changes to Gumamela St. then about 150 meters turn right to Camia St. There is no signage but you see aircon compressors at the front. Just walk in.

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