Restaurant Openings

Look Inside Sumiao Hunan Kitchen, Opening This Week in Cambridge

The colorful, communal restaurant brings spicy Hunanese-Chinese fare to Kendall Square.

The entryway into Sumiao Hunan Kitchen

The entryway into Sumiao Hunan Kitchen. / Photos provided

A spicy, bold type of cuisine has a new home in Kendall Square. Sumiao Hunan Kitchen, which opens to the public on Friday, July 28, is the first dedicated Hunanese-Chinese restaurant in the Boston area.

It’s the first ownership venture for Sumiao Chen, a scientist and Le Cordon Bleu alum from Xiangtang, Hunan, China. She’s joined by chefs Changchun Ji and Xinke Tan, whose combined experience includes stints at the Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Hakkasan, Nobu, and more. Check out the full menu of seasonally driven Hunanese plates on Eater Boston. Wok-fried, steamed, stir-fried, and more dishes are demarcated by spiciness—this cuisine is known to bite back.

Chinese cuisine expert Fuschia Dunlop explained the differences from more common Sichuan cuisine: Hunanese food doesn’t use the mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorn, and savory dishes lack the sweetness found in similar Sichuan plates, she told Serious Eats. “So while the Sichuanese have all kinds of spicy-sweet-savoury combinations, including the ‘fish-fragrant’ and ‘garlic paste’ flavors, the Hunanese tend to go for bold savory tastes, chilli-hot tastes, and sour-hot tastes,” she explained.

Eater Boston notes Zoe’s Chinese Restaurant in Somerville has some Hunan dishes on its menu, but Sumiao is the first exclusively Hunanese spot. Traditional dishes are modernized for the Kendall Square crowd: See West Lake beef chowder, “Nom Numb” wings, wok-fried organic cauliflower with oyster sauce, a traditional “lava fish” (spicy swai fillet), Hunan tofu pot with pork belly, and more. There’s also a customizable, five-course prix-fixe option for $60. Beverage consultant Richard Echeverria’s cocktail list plays off classic Hunan drinks, using a lot of rice wines and baijiu.

The bright interior has a blue, yellow, and red color palette inspired by Hunan Xiangxi patterns, with art curated by Chen, a connoisseur and the daughter of celebrated Chinese artist, Peihua Chen. A full moon-forest scene on display is painted by a student of Chen’s father, and a photo of a traditional Hunan marriage is by Chen’s husband.

The nearly-4,500-square foot space seats 168 inside, plus an additional ~50 people in curtained, private dining and A/V-equipped-conference areas. In the main dining room, there’s a fireplace, two sides of floor-to-ceiling windows, and a bar overlooking the kitchen. The lounge area features an S-shaped communal table. There are also 45 seats on a seasonal outdoor patio.

Sumiao Hunan Kitchen is softly open though July 26 by reservation only. It will officially debut Friday, July 28, and be open for lunch, dinner, and cocktails Sunday-Wednesday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-midnight.

Sumiao Hunan Kitchen, 270 Third St., Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-945-0907, sumiaohunan.com.

The lounge at Sumiao Hunan Kitchen

The lounge at Sumiao Hunan Kitchen. / Photos provided

Sumiao Hunan Kitchen

Sumiao Hunan Kitchen. / Photos provided

Private dining at Sumiao Hunan Kitchen

Private dining at Sumiao Hunan Kitchen. / Photos provided

The bar at Sumaio Hunan Kitchen. / Photos provided