You’ll be encouraged to have your iPad with your pad Thai at House of Hunan in Fairlawn, which has just undergone an extensive renovation.
The Asian restaurant — a local food institution — now has a sleek contemporary look and has installed a “tech bar,” where you can plug in your tablet computer or other device.
The granite-topped tech bar, along a portion of a wall in the dining room, joins a host of interior changes, including a new granite-topped drinks bar/lounge, a wine room and whimsical lighting, including red, yellow and white light fixtures reminiscent of lily pads.
“This is more light, bright … We wanted it to have more of an Asian contemporary look,” said Cheryl Suen, who owns the place in Fairlawn Town Centre with her husband, Lawrence Suen.
Cheryl Suen said they spent more than $400,000 on the makeover, designed by Sharon Deitrick and architect Bill Berger of Deitrick & Berger in Akron. The restaurant reopened Tuesday after being closed for two months for the remodeling. It had remained open for delivery and carryout orders.
Lawrence Suen, Hunan’s chef, said he wanted the redo to reflect the fact that the place for several years has offered a lot more than what he and his wife call traditional Chinese food — egg foo young, sweet and sour chicken and the like.
Hunan began offering sushi in 2000. And Thai dishes appeared on the menu in 2003-04; the Suens went to Taiwan to learn to prepare them. No, Taiwan is not where Thai food comes from, but Cheryl Suen says it’s a good place to learn about Asian cooking.
“My husband is passionate about learning more dishes,” Cheryl Suen said.
This is the third remodeling — and most dramatic — in the restaurant’s 30-plus years in the Fairlawn shopping plaza. The Suens also own House of Hunan locations in downtown Akron, which opened in 2000, and Medina, which opened in 2004.
In Fairlawn, gone are the black tablecloths and red napkins. Now there are white napkins atop black wood table tops. Gone is the dark and light-brown carpeting, replaced with faux light-wood flooring in the main dining room.
The wine room — fashioned from space at the rear of the dining room — boasts dark vinyl laminate wood plank flooring, giving this space a more rustic feel. The wine room can closed off for private parties and wine tastings. Wood and colorful glass doors will be installed.
Cheryl Suen said the restaurant has to be “up-to-date” in the face of competition. Chain P.F. Chang’s opened down the street, in Summit Mall, in 2009.
But Hunan hasn’t thrown the Buddha out with the bath water.
In fact, the oversize Buddha remains, and now is near the front door. It has been repainted a lighter gold color, with Dietrick herself adding warmth to it, painting touches of green and orange and adding jewels to the Buddha’s shawl. The large colorful porcelain mural — installed in 1998 at the rear of the restaurant — is now more of a focal point, with LED spotlights. The mosaic features an image of the “Eight Immortals” from Chinese mythology; they’re sometimes referred to as ancient Chinese superheroes.
“We wanted to keep some of the old traditions,” said Cheryl Suen, noting her father and mother, Tom (now deceased) and Susan Kung, were the restaurant’s original owners. The Kungs moved to the United States in the early 1970s, after living for years in Taiwan.
“We kept a lot of the red,” Cheryl Suen said, waving to the new booths that feature red upholstered backs. “Red is a happiness color in China.”
Also new are a lot of light features. Lights behind orange-sherbet-colored panels in the sushi bar and pickup counter cast an amber glow. The panels are made with a quartz product called Okite, which is translucent, allowing light to shine through, Dietrick explained. The drinks bar (as opposed to the sushi bar) features back-lit wall shelves and is flanked by “light columns.”
A new outside sign is being planned, one that will highlight the Suen name.
Inside is another nod to the past. The large gong that previously hung behind the hostess station has been moved closer to the bar. “Now it will be rung for last call,” Deitrick said.
“We’re just fortunate our business is going strong after 30 years,” Cheryl said. “That’s a blessing.”
Cooking with eggs
The egg is much maligned, but it will get a lot of love at a cooking demonstration from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, in the lobby just outside Virtues Restaurant at Summa Akron City Hospital.
Summa Executive Chef Frank Zifer and Summa wellness dietitian Nicole Dannemiller will demonstrate how to prepare egg dishes.
Eggs pack a lot of vitamins and minerals and just 75 calories apiece. Nevertheless, they have an undeserved reputation as being a dietary no-no, many dietitians say. Chalk it up to their cholesterol. But egg supporters encourage looking at one’s entire eating habits, and say they’re a worthy food.
Cost of the demonstration is $10 for members of Summa’s “Just This” nutrition program and $15 for nonmembers. The cost includes food. Wine and other beverages will be available for purchase.
The demonstration is one in a series of monthly “Just This” cooking demonstrations.
Ray’s Place on way
Fans of Ray’s Place in Kent are still eagerly awaiting the opening of the Ray’s Place in Fairlawn at the former Winking Lizard location at 25 Ghent Road, across from Summit Mall.
Owner Charlie Thomas said he is hopeful that he can open the Fairlawn Ray’s by the end of this month. “We’re getting close,” Thomas said, noting that he and staffers have been busy with the permit-inspection process.
Thomas said the place will offer virtually the same extensive menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes and more as the Kent location. The Fairlawn eatery will pour dozens of types of beer. It is the first expansion for Ray’s, founded in 1937.
The Winking Lizard moved to a larger space — the former Golden Corral restaurant off state Route 18 — in Copley Township last April.
Greek bake sale
The popular Spring Bake Sale starts today at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Akron.
The sale of Greek pastries and other goodies made by the church’s Ladies Philoptochos Society will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Thursday at the church hall, 129 S. Union St., adjacent to the University of Akron campus. To place an order or for information, call 330-434-0000.
Community food event
The public is invited to attend a meeting of the Summit Food Policy Coalition from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the downtown Akron Summit County Public Library, 60 S. High St.
Attendees can learn about how to start a community garden, as well as participate in efforts to improve food access to “underserved and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods,” organizers said in a news release. For more information, visit www.summitfpc.wordpress.com.
The grass-roots coalition was formed several years ago and every two years co-sponsors the Growing Hope Food Summit. The primary financial sponsor is the Akron Summit Community Action nonprofit agency.
Regency Wine Bar continues with its Friday Happy Hour Tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. Cost is $10. This Friday’s offers four wines from Italy and one from Argentina.
Regency is at 115 Ghent Road in Fairlawn, across from Summit Mall. Regency’s website is www.regencywinesellers.com.
Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.