Hunan, City's Oldest Chinese Restaurant, Closes

Hunan's, Lexington's oldest Chinese restaurant, closed at the end of August. The family "just wore out" running the sit down estsblishment for 32 years. "It was 12 hours a day, seven days a week, year round. Our parents are ready to retire and we just decided we couldn't do it any more." The family is not leaving the restaurant business entirely. They've opened Jin Jin, a Chinese takeout outlet, in Chinoe Plaza (photo, below). There are four tables along one wall where someone could eat in, but service will be bare. It's obviously not intended as a sit down restaurant.

hunan's
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Hunan's was a small family restaurant which opened in 1984 at Southland Drive and Nicholasville Road and was still there. The building is a modest red frame (above), but offered authentic Chinese at its classical best. The hot and sour soup was milder than most but extremely rich and mellow, considered by most Chinese enthusiasts the best in town. The mustard was powerful and had to be sampled with care, but the sweet sauce was Apricot based and wonderful. Hunan's Shanghai Scallops in Mandarin Sauce was the best Chinese seafood entree in town and maybe the state. Hunan's was Elegant. It had class, dignity and subtlety. The name implied Hunan cuisine, which is extremely hot. But that was misleading. They were just using the name. In fact, they offered items from all Chinese regions and would fix them mild, medium or highly spiced.

The new Jin Jin menu offers a special section entitled "Hunan Classical Gourmet --- Original Recipes From Hunan Restaurant." They include the most popular Beef, Pork, Chicken and Shrimp entrees. But the famous Shanghai Scallops in Mandarin Sauce, the reason many Lexingtonians and Central Kentuckians stopped at Hunan, are gone. It's not suited for takeout packaging.

The new menu, sadly, is the same 123 item menu every other Chinese takeout restaurant in America offers. Hunan kept its menu small, to about a dozen entrees, and did those 12 very, very well. Most of its devoted fans thought it did them better than any other restaurant in Kentucky. Now, we're back to the same assembly line menu as every other Chinese outlet.

The phone number at Jin Jin is 859-269-3382.