Hunan fare is often considered the underdog of spice, obscured in the shadows while the spotlight more often shines on Sichuan. But the region that was the home of Chairman Mao, and a hotspot for the generous use of chillies and spice, has more than fire to make it stand out. The Hunan-style dishes at Karaiya are a celebration of the glory of this lesser-known cuisine. Karaiya opened in 2009 and seems to fly under the radar despite a central location in Sanlitun. But, like the province it represents, it stands strong despite a quiet existence. What we love about this restaurant is the elegant and understated dining room, with its mystical sweeping doors and subtle lighting. There’s a quiet comfort within.The chillies of Hunan may ward off the timid, but a closer look at the menu reveals mild dishes that balance the meal. Karaiya’s signature creations are often a variation on the classics and well worth discovering.