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If you haven’t been in La Plata’s Hunan Star lately (well, chances are you have, it was packed on a recent Friday for lunch) but if you haven’t you really should go. For one thing, it doesn’t look anything like you might have grown accustomed to in the restaurant’s 21-year history in Charles County.

Owner Susan Cheng said the $150,000 to $200,000 renovation over a four-month period was accomplished without shutting down her restaurant.

“We were able to get the space in the shopping center next to our restaurant, so we expanded,” Cheng said. “I had wanted to do this for a long time, but we could never make it happen. I didn’t want to shut down the restaurant,so we worked on the new space and kept the restaurant open. Then after that was done, we closed off the bar area for one month while we did the work in there, and then closed the middle dining room for one month. But we managed to stay open the entire time.”

Cheng added they have had little trouble filling the extra space since renovations were complete.

“The customers come in all day long,” she said.

The addition of sushi chefs Ian Wang and Ken Chen is another new wrinkle in Hunan Star’s rebirth.

“I had customers who would say, ‘no sushi?’ They would have to go to Virginia or D.C. to have sushi,” Cheng noted. “So when we expanded, we added two sushi chefs and an extra waiter.” Wang, she said, was a sushi chef in Manhattan, N.Y. for 10 years and is very accomplished for one so young.

“Customers come in for sushi much more in the evening,” she admitted, adding that the lunch buffet draws most customers in during the midday.

For my sushi selection, I tried the spider roll, which included deep fried soft shell crab, avacado and masango and eel sauce. I’ve had spider rolls at other sushi bars, but this one was the best I’ve ever eaten. The texture was as wonderful as the flavor. There’s something for every palate on this particular menu, which is separate from the main course menu. I also like that you can create your own sushi roll if you don’t favor what’s on the menu.

With the renovation, the restaurant was expanded from 3,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet. Cheng said her staff of 12 is mostly family and friends. With the added space, the restaurant can also do private parties. They also cater and provide party trays for your party. The expansion has made a difference, Cheng said.

“It was a big turnaround for us,” she said. “People who have been coming here for years and we have customers who come from as far away as King George, Va. they walk in and they can’t believe it. They say it looks like a whole new place.”

jnorris@somdnews.com

Hunan Star

6277 Crain Highway, Hawthorne Center, La Plata

Hours of operation: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Items from $1.80-$12.50, varied menu featuring all types of popular American and Chinese food; lunch buffet available seven days a week; dinner buffet Wednesday and Friday; Sushi items range in price from $4.50-$42.95

Payment: V, MC, DIS, AE