Village Kitchen opened somewhat recently in San Diego, featuring Xiang, or Hunan, regional specialties. I’m actually from Hunan (born in Changsha and spent a good amount of time in Changde), and I was quite excited to try it out. My mom and aunt were in town recently, so I thought it’d be great to take them and let them the judges!
Village Kitchen is located in the same plaza as Little Fat Sheep and Ramen Yamadaya. We visited on a Saturday for lunch, and there was a good crowd, but no line.
There were a couple of items that I knew I wanted to try for sure, and I let my mom and aunt choose the rest of the dishes.
Spicy Boiled Mix 坡子街的熱滷
The “Spicy Boils from Pozi Street” was an interesting translation… Basically, a cold dish appetizer where you can pick three from a list. We chose tofu skin, wood ear mushrooms, and duck gizzards. They’re tossed together with a generous amount of cilantro and chili sauce before serving.
Farmer Green Pepper 農家小炒肉 [$10.75]
Again, the translation doesn’t really tell you anything about this dish, which is basically a stir-fry dish of green chili peppers and beef slices. We thought that the flavor was pretty spot-on Hunan. I especially appreciated that they used the right type of green chili peppers, rather than jalapeños which so many other Chinese restaurants tend to use in their “spicy” dishes.
Grandma’s Braised Pork 外婆家的扣肉 [$12.75]
There are two braised pork dishes on the menu, a “Grandma’s” version and a “Chef’s” version. Turns out, “Grandma’s” version is kou rou, which is steamed and served with salted pickled vegetables at the bottom, and “Chef’s” is the more traditional red-braised pork (hong shao rou). Here, the kou rou is served with steamed buns, which you can split to make yourself a Chinese taco. The meat was really tender and had good flavor; the pickled vegetables weren’t overly salty (as is sometimes the case with this dish), overall a really nice, non-spicy dish from the meal.
Cucumber Skin with Smoked Pork 黃瓜皮炒臘肉 [$12.75]
This exact dish is actually not listed on the menu… The listed version is actually salted long beans with smoked pork, but our waitress informed us that they could make a version with chopped cucumber skin as well. The cucumber skin provided a delightful crunchy texture, and the smoked pork was plenty salty, fatty, and smoky. A generous amount of chili peppers and garlic were added in this stir-fry, which again had the right “hometown flavor” for me. This and the appetizer mix were Mom’s favorites of the meal.
Mashed Eggplant and Green Chili Pepper with Century Egg 茄子擂辣椒皮蛋 [$10.75]
This was the dish that I was most interested in after reading others’ reviews. It comes out in a large mortar, and the waiter mixed it up for us at the table. The chilies were the same as the ones in the beef stir-fry dish, and it seems like they’ve been roasted, as were the eggplants. The slight smoky flavor blended well with the century egg, giving a creamy and tender texture. This was probably my favorite dish of the meal (and the only one that we actually managed to polish off entirely! The portions here are pretty large.)
Stir-Fried Organic Cauliflower 大盆有機花菜 [$8.75]
I was hoping that these cauliflower would be the long-stemmed kind which are much better for stir-fry, but alas, it was just regular cauliflower, haha. This was stir-fried with green onions, a bit of dried chilies, and, interestingly, chicharrónes.
By the way, they don’t mess around with the heat levels here… The dishes are actually pretty spicy, especially for San Diego standards. However, I was chatting with one of the waiters, and he said that they’re happy to make some of the dishes mild or not spicy at all upon request. So, be sure to do that if spicy foods aren’t your cup of tea!
Overall, I loved our meal at Village Kitchen. We’ve actually had a few meals of take-out from here since our first visit, and I can say that this is now my favorite Chinese restaurant in San Diego. Of course, the nostalgia and comfort food factors play pretty heavily into my judgment, but S also really likes the food here so I’ll take that as affirmation of my opinion, hehe. We’ll definitely be back to explore more of the menu.
Village Kitchen 家湘味
4720 Clairement Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92117