Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Han Dynasty

Dinner last week at the Han Dynasty - otherwise known as the HandyNasty if you read their website address a bit too quickly - which is the third outpost of  31 year-old entrepreneur Han Chiang.   Han’s restaurants are known for their authentic and viciously spicy Szechuan dishes.  His other two Dynastys in Exton & Royersford both feature an “Americanized” menu for the weaker stomachs of the mainline crowd.  His old city restaurant features no such mercy rule.  Your taste buds will be assaulted from every angle by the sneaky heat he has packed into even the most innocent looking dishes – spicy cucumbers anyone??

Han is a friend of a friend from Drexel, and we had a sizeable group of about 16.  So instead of squeezing into the modern feeling main dining room, we were quickly ushered into the underground banquet room, presumably where our cries for mercy from the chef’s seemingly endless supply of chili oil wouldn’t be heard by passersby.  I later found out that getting seated in this room was quite the treat.  If you’re lucky enough to land the big table you don’t get menus – food just starts showing up; sesame noodles, dumplings, wontons, chicken dishes, stir-fried eggplant, etc.  This continues until you’re either full or can’t take any more heat.  If you’re really lucky, Han will guide you thru your dishes and point out that “if you don’t like spicy food, go f*#% yourself.” 

All of the dishes we had were outstanding.  The feast started with two types of sesame noodles, one vegetarian and one with pork.  Both were dressed in a little chili oil that got more intense as you worked down thru the bowl and the noodles had the chance to bath a little longer.  Next was steamed wontons, soaking in chili oil, daring you to eat them.  The pork filling in them had a great sweetness that helped to cut thru the spice and they were steamed to perfection.  Little dumplings with a similar filling were equally as good and lip numbing.   White rice is served alongside, but don’t fill up as it’s just taking up valuable real estate.  Roasted & stir fried eggplant that was insanely good and crispy bits of perfectly fried dry pepper style chicken with whole red chili’s rounded out the meal.   Nearly ice cold sliced cucumbers offer some relief from the heat onslaught, but these too are soaking in that delicious chili oil and are almost a cruel trick – “go ahead eat me, you’ll feel better.”  Little bastards.   No matter what you do though, you can’t stop eating as each dish is better than the last.   

The whole meal runs you $25, and it’s BYO.  I don’t know a better deal in Philly for the type and amount of food you’re going to get at Han Dynasty.   I literally could not stop talking about it the next day, and kept thinking back to those evil little cucumbers daring me on.  Han informed us that our meal was a 5 out of 10 on his heat scale.  Looking forward to going back and experiencing what the other half of that scale is all about.

108 Chestnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19106 

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