The sandwich board menu outside of Hometown Noodles’ front door is written in Mandarin without translation. That wouldn’t be a surprise in Mountain View or Cupertino, areas with large Chinese populations, but not in south San Jose.

Inside, the restaurant is a cozy and tastefully decorated eatery with faux strings of chili peppers adorning the walls, a clue that the place takes the hallmark of Hunan cooking seriously.

“You can’t be a revolutionary if you don’t eat chilies,” claimed Hunan’s best known native, Mao Zedong. If true, Hometown Noodles would make the founder of the People’s Republic of China proud by bringing the revolution to a modest Cambrian strip mall. Unlike its central China neighbors in the Sichuan province, who are known for numbingly spicy dishes featuring peppercorns, Hunan food is considered spicy with dry heat, relying on chilies and flavorful, preserved ingredients.

Hometown Noodles’ Pickled Long Bean with Minced Meat ($9.98 small; $11.68 large) is authentic Hunan cuisine. It’s a bowl of rice noodles with a spicy, flavorful broth, fresh colorful ingredients, topped by bok choy and peanuts. There’s a sour taste created by the long beans to compliment the spiciness. A similarly excellent noodle dish is the Spicy Chicken ($9.98, $11.68), which lives up to its name but isn’t overwhelming.

For a milder option, the Stewed Beef Brisket ($10.98, $12.68) is an excellent choice. The meat is tender and flavorful and swims in a rich broth with the rice noodles, fresh vegetables, and peanuts.

For appetizers, the Fried Egg Rolls ($3.98) were a nice surprise as they are thin and light, not the bigger rolls that tend to get heavy from absorbing oil. The Fried Tofu ($4.98) is soft and sits in a soy sauce, topped with garlic and scallions. It’s the dish I’ll order on every visit.

For those desiring an authentic or adventurous dish, order the Homestyle Pig Ear ($5.98): a bowl of pickled, thinly sliced, cold pig ears with vegetables. The flavor is refreshing, but the texture for the uninitiated can be a gelatinous challenge.

There’s only one quasi dessert option on the menu: Beijing Yogurt ($2.78). Unlike the other dishes, the presentation isn’t elegant. Diners get a small drink carton with a mini straw. It’s a yogurt that nicely finishes off a spicy meal.

Hometown Noodles’ service is pleasant and attentive when not too busy. Most important, the food is deliciously authentic. Perhaps it’s the beginning of a food revolution in Cambrian Park.- —J.J. Carburry

Hometown Noodles 
3617 Union Ave., San Jose.