Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Henry's Hunan
674 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA
Review by SuSu, MaceVindaloo, Bondo, Diasala

We're not sure who Henry is, but if you've ever seen Flower Drum Song, you would recognize the style of cooking. There are some unusal things distinctive of this place, and there are long lines of businessmen in large and small groups, waiting their turn to sit in this long restaurant for lunch, even though they serve their food with chunky green chopsticks. These, frankly, are a nightmare to eat with if you're unversed. And this is no time to be shy about asking for a fork.

The food reminded one of us of Chinese food as we knew it as a child — the peppers and onions just barely cooked so that it retained some of its raw character, yet was cooked and juicy, too. Meats and seafood are treated with respect and sauced according to the character of the dish. There were some exotic dishes too, which made us laugh with childlike glee!

One of the appetizers is a sort of a sandwich of cooked, granual pork, and shredded lettuce. The bread part of the concoction is fulfilled by a fried, kind of flaky flatbread. It's hard to imagine, and very easy to eat and enjoy. It's sort of like a chinese quesadilla, without cheese, without griling, cute into quadrants to feed four for appetizers.

We also tried dumplings in a thin hot chili soy sauce. Thswe were filled with a fine-grained pork mixture, in a hand-made wrapper which was thick enough to be chewy but thin enough to be cooked through. Both appetizers were succulent and delicious, and both different and fine riffs on ground pork.

For mains, we opted for "Henry's Special" which was a stir-fried mixture of pork, chicken, shrimp, and scallops in a slightly spicy sauce colored a darkish firey red; nicknamed by one of us as "Hank's Special," the scallops really make this dish what it is: succulent, sweet, and very special indeed. We also ordered pulled pork tossed in a wok with spinach leaves; spare ribs in a thicker black bean sauce; a fried fish dish of rock cod. They were all savory and delicious, with the fried fish dish being the surprisingly delicious winner. White rice was served in a communal bowl, the better to encourage sharing and tasting.

This restaurant is inundated at lunch time; they have two entrances — the main one, and a back-alley one. We saw a large group of suited businessmen heading for the back door, as were we ... and we were tempted to break into a run to get around the building so we could beat them onto the line! Fortunately, Henry's has a prodigious turn-around time for tables and the wait is not long. Though it's a serious consideration to beat out a big group if it means you might have to wait too long for your meal!

The two entrances — front and back — actually look pretty much identical, meaning that both look like back doors. Be sure to look for the neon signs high above street level above the doors to find Henry's Hunan. The interior is a big scary, with the strength-bearing V-shaped girders smack through the spinal center of the restaurant. It's as if the owner cajoled an unsuspecting immigrant into renting a basement or sub-basement as a dining space ... It really does add to the ambiance of the place. And local pundits loudly proclaim it as one of the best Chinese fooderies in the city, and it's not even in Chinatown. How lucky are we that people thought well enough of us to show us this shadowy den of excellent eats?

And in case you can't get downtown, there are three other locations, on Sansome, Natoma, and Bryant Streets. The locations are listed on their website; even if you're in the end of nowhere in San Francisco, there could be a Henry's Hunan near you, and you'd be a fool to miss the opportunity to eat there!

Disclaimer: The opinions and observations noted are the property of the author. Neither Wookieehut nor any associates makes any claims or lucre from the posting of this report or review. This webpage is presented by Wookieehut.com. Enjoy!