Kathy and Matt were kind enough to take one for the team this weekend at Hunan Mao Jia in San Gabriel. It's a newish Hunan restaurant which came with almost no reports from other diners and a "C" in the window. We gamely tried a pleasantly gingery and mild pork soup along with three dishes which seemed to share the same characteristics: oily and chock-full of sliced red peppers. The fish filets below, recommended by the waiter, were the best of the lot -- nicely spiced with the omnipresent mixture of peppers and green onions. Pork with green beans, above, was too finely ground to pick up properly with chopsticks, and the small pickled bits of green bean didn't provide a good foil to the incendiary ground pork. This was very similar to one of my favorite Thai dishes, gai sup nok, but I much prefer the Thai version. Cauliflower in pork oil was showered in pieces of pork fat, which provided a decadent contrast to the lightly-cooked cauliflower, but the combo effect wasn't all that pleasing. The servers were swamped dealing with a busload of sleepy Chinese tourists and pretty much ignored us, leaving us to pour our beer in teacups. If you've exhausted the other Hunan restaurants in the area and love incredibly hot food swimming in pork oil, give this place a try. Otherwise...maybe not.
Hunan Mao Jia
535 W. Valley Blvd. (at New)