The buzz: Let Guyi and Di Shui Dong have all their fame, but to Shanghai's better-informed spice lovers, Yue Yang Piao Xiang Lou is their secret haven where they can enjoy genuine Hunan food at the half price of other fancier Hunan dining destinations.
The look: The newest addition to the Yue Yang chain is larger and brighter than the other two outlets in town, but be warned there is nothing stylish or eye-catching in it. It just looks like a casual canteen with tables covered by yellow tablecloth and wooden chairs, though you'll be reminded by the pictures of young Chairman Mao that you're in a Hunan restaurant.
The food: The wide array of Hunan dishes here are simply irresistable. You can choose from 'wei la' (a little spicy), 'zhong la' (first tone, medium spicy) and 'zhong la' (forth tone, heavily spicy). Backed up by a life-long love affair with spicy food, we opted for 'heavily spicy' and survived it with teary eyes and burning throat.
Chicken wings with cumin (25rmb) were fragrant and juicy, with mushrooms and preserved spicy wild peppers embedded inside the chicken. We especially loved pig's ears with chilli sauce (25rmb) - the tender meat soaked up the tasty chilli sauce and the crunchy soft bones were fun to chew on.Steamed taro with chopped chilli pepper (18rmb) also won us over with its tender texture and rich flavor.
The only disappointment was sauteed sour beans and chicken gizzards (20rmb): the beans were not sour enough and the chicken gizzards tasted too flat. We were confused, because it was supposed to be the siganature dish here. Anyway, we decided we'd give it another try next time.
The crowd: People who just got off work, small groups of friends and families living in the neighborhood.
Why you'll be back: Frankly speaking, neither the decor, the ambience nor the service is good enough here, but if you're like us, you'll definitely frequent here for one reason - the food, the mouth-watering, set-your-tongue-on-fire, reasonably priced, genuine Hunan food.