First, let me get this straight–this is not haute cuisine. Or even really exceptional food. It’s just standard American Chinese food, prepared well. What makes it a family favorite is that is serves vegetarian versions of those standard dishes in addition to the meaty ones. We aren’t restricted to Broccoli in Garlic sauce or Moo Shi Vegetable (which is not to say I don’t like those things, because I do).
Some folks like meat analogs, some don’t. I’m no fan of tempeh or seitan (which squeaks on my teeth and makes me a wee bit insane), but I do tend to like the Buddhist-style fake meat one can find at this sort of restaurant. We usually get the vegetarian Beef with Broccoli because the fake beef has a really good texture and it holds its own in the sauce. The broccoli is never mushy, and the sauce is mild. My 5 year old is crazy for the vegetarian Shrimp Pad Thai–which is, obviously, not Chinese, but is good–even though it has a bit of a kick to it. This used to be served with these creepily good fake shrimp, but when we went last week, they were missing. I don’t know what was up with that and our server was too new to be helpful on that front. The fake chicken is a bit spongey for my taste, but my 11 year old likes it better than the beef (but she’d really prefer to not have the fake meat at all). One particularly nice thing at Hunan Gourmet is that you can get vegetarian hot and sour soup. It’s quite good, especially in winter when you could use that sinus clearing spice.
If you want really fantastic vegetarian Chinese, you’re going to need to go to Rockville–I recommend the Vegetable Garden–but if you want good Chinese food with more choices (and really good soup!) head on over to 7th St., to the shopping center near the hospital, to Hunan Gourmet.