We finally made it to Hunan Villa in Pinole for lunch. We figured it should be good since it’s owned by the same people who own the Pear Street Bistro. It’s in one of those yucky strip malls and looks kind of dead from the outside, but once you step in you know right away it’s connected to Pear Street what with the stained concrete with circular design and funky loft ceiling. The menu is not overly long and we quickly selected one chicken with black bean sauce lunch special, one lettuce wraps with chicken and the sampler plate. The served us tea in an iron tea pot, which was a nice touch. The sampler plate had some chicken skewers, cigar shrimp, BBQ pork and spring rolls. I find that this kind of appetizer plate is usually a blight upon the earth, but it was very, very good at Hunan Villa. What a pleasant surprise! The chicken skewers had large, moist chicken chunks that were crispy on the outside. The shrimp were wrapped in a bit of phyllo and deep fried, and the roast pork was the kind with the red edges — but moist and flavorful and not dry and gray like it often is. The spring rolls were tasty little suckers, too. The sampler was served with a quartet of sauces: hot mustard, sweet sauce, hot sauce, hot and sweet sauce. Sweet. My lettuce wraps dish was a mixture of chicken, mushrooms and other veggies served with a stack of romaine lettuce leaves and a dipping sauce akin to hoisin. The chicken mixture was moist, which I liked because it stayed in the lettuce, though my guess is that most people would prefer it to be a little dryer. My eating companion, Matthew, said the black bean sauce chicken was good and that he was able to detect the pungency of the beans. Service was friendly and prompt. We will return, even if it means driving miles up San Pablo Avenue. $31 before tip.
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