While contemporary restaurants require the aid of bright lights and booming sounds to attract customers, there's a small, incognito hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Guadalupe Viejo, Makati that gained popularity among food enthusiasts alongside a cloud of mystery and anonymity. It's an irony that has been puzzling me for some time but after having finally visited the place, I understood why it has survived without all the fancy promotion gimmicks typical to food establishments.
Xiang-Chuan Restaurant or You Jie Xiao Chao? (湘川饭店还是游姐小炒?)
There are different ways of approaching this restaurant's name as it has two to which its fame clings. I got the chance to talk to one of its owners, Auntie You herself. She doesn't speak much English though so I had to muster up my Chinese knowhow to squeeze answers from her.
Be sure to keep your eyes open for it's so easy to miss this place! That's 6404 Camia street, Guadalupe Viejo.
She said that for political correctness (not necessarily what she said), Xiang-Chuan is more proper to use as it defines the cuisine that they serve. Xiang-Chuan (湘川) was coined by combining the first and last characters of the name of Auntie You's and her husband's places of origin, namely Xiangtan (湘潭) and Sichuan (四川). You Jie Xiao Chao (游姐小炒), the name that appears on their business card, was taken after her surname You (游), hence the name.
Now that the issue behind the name has been given some light, it's easier to note that, contrary to popular belief, the restaurant is not plainly Hunanese.
Those familiar with the eight major Chinese cuisines would easily know the difference between Hunan and Sichuan tastes. While both cuisines often use chilies for their dishes, Hunan food more frequently uses fresh chilies and are known to be "dry hot" or "purely hot" and is considered to be spicier. Sichuan dishes are typically "ma-la" or numbingly hot.
Since the owners of Xiang-Chuan Restaurant are Hunanese and Sichuanese, expect their dishes to be a combination of both cuisines so try not to over exert when trying to figure out which is which.
One of the waitresses shared that the restaurant has expanded greatly since its opening. Already two years old, the restaurant has acquired the space next-door and has bigger dining apacity from its original eight tables.
This photo doesn't do the place justice. It has already expanded and now occupies the first floor of the property next-door.
The interiors were left to look simple and clean. I have no complaint regarding the cleanliness of the place as it did look thoroughly clean as if personally managed by a meticulous mother.
For my first visit, I was able to try these three dishes:
Boiled dumplings (煎饺 ). Don't forget to dip it in the sauce; tastes better with it.
Fried beans (干煸四季豆). A long-time favorite dish of mine that I always order whenever available. Too bad that the one served to us pales in comparison to the original and lacked the trademark spiciness.
Duck hot pot (鸭肉火锅). Can't say I haven't had better versions of this dish but I enjoyed munching on the lean duck meat. The spices were just right and made me want to have more.
I wasn't able to order enough dishes to give a complete review but with the ones I tasted, I'm confident enough to recommend the place to friends who are looking for better than the usual Chinese cuisine. With Xiang-Chuan Restaurant, one can enjoy the tastes of both Hunan and Sichuan. Oh! And make sure you wash the spiciness down by drinking Wang Lao Ji/Wong Lo Kat (王老吉), a sweet and refreshing drink.
I'll surely visit Xiang-Chuan Restaurant again to try their other dishes! Mind going with me next time?
Xiang-Chuan Restaurant/You Jie Xiao Chao (湘川饭店/游姐小炒)
Address: 6404 Camia Street, Guadalupe Viejo, Makati City (near Power Plant Mall, Rockwell)
Tel: 09228698887, 09277876999, 09154252972