There’s a life-sized Buddha statue just inside the restaurant, bamboo in ornate pots and two menus, one for Chinese food, the other for Korean.
It’s obvious the longtime owners of Shan Hu Chinese restaurant at 7656 Belfort have put a lot of thought into how to make everyone feel welcome when they walk in and satisfied when they walk out.
The roomy restaurant with airy ceilings and good feng shui has been a staple of the Hobby Area District and is celebrating 40 years in business by ramping up staffing in the wake of the COVID epidemic, owner Tiffany Chao said.
“We love this community and we’ve seen a lot of changes,” she said. “We’ve been here 40 years and we still try to treat everyone like family.”
She acknowledged business has been slow since the epidemic started. Still, the long-time institution is working hard to stay open with reliable service.
“We’re really blessed to be here in the Hobby District,” Chao said, because the restaurant is a safe place thanks to the District’s placement of rotating mobile surveillance camera towers. One was positioned just outside of the restaurant for three months this year.
She also said she has seen public safety improvements with the increased police presence funded by the Hobby Area District along commercial corridors.
“A lot of the officers come in to eat,” she said with a smile.
And considering the food, their habit isn’t surprising.
During a recent visit, Tiffany served up barbecued spareribs as an appetizer, pan fried pot stickers and a half-portion of an enduring American-Chinese dish: General Tso’s chicken.
The three massive ribs were drizzled with sauce, not slathered, so they weren’t too messy to eat during a business lunch. The pork was tender and almost fell off the bone.
Pot stickers, also known as gyoza, are pinched-end dumplings that, when pan-fried, are delicate with a crispy ridge and are served hot with a thin sauce for dipping.
The General Tso’s dish was the epitome of the well-known dish: Juicy chicken breaded and deep fried before being tossed in a sticky sweet and slightly spicy sauce that has a little heat and a savory flavor. The half-order with steamed rice seemed like it was the same size as a regular order at almost any other restaurant.
Chao emphasized the Korean menu, too, with delicious beef bulgogi and limited banchan, which are traditional side dishes.
The extensive menu also includes a half duck served whole, and kid-friendly items such as chicken tenders and fries.
During a discussion about the extensive menu, a longtime customer volunteered that she ate there as often as possible and usually ordered the Mongolian beef and chicken because Shan Hu is the only place that she had ever seen the combo on the menu.
“And I always get the full order, so there’s plenty left over to take home for leftovers,” said Joy, who said she has been coming to Shan Hu for about five years.
She said she started coming on the recommendation of a “regular” whose loyalty has been immortalized by having her photo taken and posted on the wall under the banner of “Who’s Who at Shen Hu!”
Chao laughed as she pointed to the wall and explained posting the hundreds of photos was an active project — until it became hard to find Polaroid Instamatic film.
7656 Bellfort St.
Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
— by Brian Rogers