Amazing Chowhound dinner this evening at Center City Han Dynasty!!!
Following our host's (Delucacheesemonger's) suggestion, we put ourselves in the chef's hands. We were then delighted by a host of dishes with a variety of spice levels including tripe, lamb, pork belly, eggplant, chicken, fish, two kinds of noodles, cucumber, tofu, and beef.
As an adventurous eater who is nonetheless timid about heat, I was pleasantly surprised that these Szechuan dishes came at a variety of heat levels. I was able to eat even the hottest by avoiding the quite visible peppers.
To add to it all, the feast came at a very reasonable price with attentive service.
It was great meeting Delucacheesemonger, Seeker19104, InSearchOfTacos and six other Chowhound padawans for a BYOB chowdown Friday night at Han Dynasty (Old City location)!
Since this was the first visit to Han for nine of us, we put ourselves in owner Han Chiang’s capable hands (an interesting and informative host, he visited our table several times to chat), with only a few specific requests for highly recommended dishes and Sichuan classics. Interestingly, Han is originally from Mainland China, but grew in Taiwan. His father also works in the restaurant. But the chefs are apparently Sichuan.
Menu (in order of service and photos):
Beef and tripe in chili oil (fuqui feipian)
Quick stir-fried cucumbers
Pork belly with fresh garlic sauce
Dan Dan noodles
Sesame cold noodles
Lamb in cumin
Dried chicken in chili sauce (not sure what it is called on the menu)
Some sort of leafy green vegetable with garlic
Eggplant in Garlic Sae
Some sort of beef stew
IMO, the standout dish was the amazing dried chicken in chili sauce (a dry dish, so I presume the "sauce" is coating the crispy fried meat). I’ve had this very spicy dish 100s of times elsewhere, and this was the most tender, succulent, and yet still very crispy version that I’ve ever had. It was so tender; at first I thought it was fish.
The rustically sliced version of cold fuqui feipian (my all time favorite Sichuan dish) was rated a screaming 9/10 on the spiciness scale, but really only deserved a 6/10. On the one hand, I am impressed with the Old City crowds flocking to Han, given the serious spiciness of most dishes. If you don’t like spicy food, this is not the place for you. But on the other hand, if you are a real spice-nick like me, Han doesn’t remotely push your limits (Lai Lai Brothers in North Wales is much hotter). However, this judiciousness (and I thought unusually modest use of Sichuan peppercorns) has the advantage of letting the unique flavors of each dish come through better without being pummeled to submission by overpowering heat. But it may also be recognition that you are not going to get a mostly native Chinese clientele in Old City, unlike most of the truly authentic Sichuan restaurants I've been too.
Other dishes of note were the Dan Dan noodles and twice-fried fish. But I expected something more interesting from the cumin lamb, given how many reviews mention it.
I’ve had a fair bit of authentic Sichuan in my life, and I think Han is very, very good. Not remotely as hot or as mala as it could be, but their strength is in well-balanced flavors. And the ringer was the remarkable price: $15/person + tip. Add in that it is BYOB, and what is not to like? I anticipate many repeat visits…
Speaking of the wines, not surprisingly the most successful pairings were on the spicy, sweeter side. The standout of the night was the Barmes-Buecher (which is $26 at Moore Brothers), which was an excellent wine by itself, and a good pairing for the food. This isn’t a place or cuisine for something rare and expensive, but a well-matched wine definitely enhances the overall experience.
2007 Domaine Barmes-Buecher Gewurztraminer Herrenweg de Turckheim
2009 Familie Bauer "Grun" Gruner/Malvasier
2009 Domaine des Aubuisières Vouvray Cuvée de Silex
1999 Herbert Messmer Gewürztraminer Spätlese Pfalz Burrweiler Altenforst
2009 Château de Manissy Tavel Cuvée des Lys
2009 Beni di Batasiolo Moscato d'Asti Bosc dla Rei
2009 Weingut Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Kammern / Kamptal Zöbinger Heiligenstein
2001 Domaine Guindon Muscadet des Coteaux de la Loire
2007 Château Bélingard Monbazillac
the green leafy vegetable was pea shoots w garlic- i quite like this dish, esp with all the spicy food
and the spice levels were not out of control by any means. i know a lot of ppl who are scared to come here because they "dont like spicy food" but really- the food is great and very flavorful. if you order carefully and eat around the chilis, you can avoid the spice
And I think they have an Americanized menu too? At least it sound like they do at the other locations. So maybe I shouldn't be scaring off his non-spice-loving customers. I'm sure Han will guide diners to whatever will please them most.
Great meeting you, and looking forward to that Matyson chowdown (hint!)...