Hunan Palace

June 2005

The crystal-chandeliered dining room with Chinese still lifes is more glamorous than most, but the Chinese fare is as authentic as it comes. Despite the name, the Taiwanese and Shanghai cooking is the reason to make the trip–though more-familiar Hunan and Szechuan dishes can be had, too. Look to the Chef's Specialties on the Chinese menu for delicate pan-fried lily-flower root and wonderfully chewy conch with white leeks. Other savory picks range from fiery beef short ribs in black-pepper sauce to Hong Kong style stir-fried clams in black-bean sauce.

Tanks of tilapia, lobster, and, in season, Vancouver crabs mean marvelous seafood preparations–though unless you order judiciously, you can blow the Cheap Eats budget. Vancouver crab with ginger and scallions is worth cutting corners elsewhere. At the other end of the price spectrum are the Hong Kong style soups–we like the shrimp dumpling and noodle–that are a steal at $5.50 for a generous bowlful.