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Han Dynasty in E.V.

Has anyone tried this new Szechuan restaurant from Philly here? How was it? Please share your reviews.

By looking at the menu and the pics on Yelp, I got a feeling that it might be somewhat americanized, though they still appear to have the regular Szechuan stuff.

P.S. I am from HK and been to Szechuan multiple times.

I need to test it out myself.

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  1. Did you see the Serious Eats piece?

    What other Sichuan restaurants here do you like? Most of the ones here do have Americanized dishes on the menu in addition to traditional ones.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      Yes, I did. I also checked out their menu online. That is one of the major reason I said they don't seem too authentic.

      First, translations are inaccurate :/ Secondly, if you ever been to Sichuan, you will know they would not list shrimp, tofu or chicken as an option for the "Shuizhu" dish (literally translated as "water boil"). Yet, considering that these may be the compromise they need to make - tailoring to American palate, I will want to give them a chance lol. Moreover, they are close to my office.

    2. Haven't been to this one yet, but i have been to the original philly one a lot. Its very tasty, i doubt its anything close to what you get in china, but such is life. If you stick to the traditional offerings you will get traditional food, just avoid the lame americanized dishes.

      6 Replies
      1. re: vnair2

        Yeah, I figure. I will still give it a try as I don't want to trek all the way to Flushing and want to try something new other than my usual haunt, Sichuan Gourmet.

        1. re: vnair2

          Just so I make sure to avoid them in the future which are the American dishes?

          1. re: Chinon00

            Per Serious Eats:

            "I don't recommend this dish" chided Chiang of the Scallion Pancakes ($3.95) that I ordered. He explains that the dish isn't truly authentic to his vision, but some menu items are necessary options for the less adventurous. He also warned against the "crispy rice-style" entree, (which sounds like a stoner's delight—your choice of protein with sweet and sour sauce, bamboo shoots, black mushrooms, and wood ear mushrooms, served on pillows of sizzling crispy rice), or dishes served "scallion style."

            In fact, pretty much anything without a little red number next to it does not get his seal of authenticity.


            Looking at the online menu, it does sort of make sense. A lot of the non-Sichuan stuff is at the bottom.

            1. re: kathryn

              Maybe over simplified, but a simple rule you can abide by: for protein dish cooked with Sichuan chill oil, stick with chicken or fish. No scallops, no shrimps.

              Cumin dish, stick with lamb. No beef no chicken no nonsense.

              Kung Pao,the only legit version is chicken. No shrimp.

              Skip things labeled salt and pepper or garlic sauce. Honestly, never seen such things in Szechuan cooking. Or maybe just I don't know the chinese translation.

              Scallion Style? Are we talking about Cantonese here?

              1. re: nomadmanhattan

                "Cumin dish, stick with lamb. No beef no chicken no nonsense."

                Cumin beef, when prepared well, is terrific.

                1. re: nomadmanhattan

                  The duck with garlic sauce at Sichuan Gourmet on 56th is very good, and the restaurant is pretty authentic.

                  But it may be a translation issue.

                  Or maybe it's good and not authentic.

          2. i went on wednesday. a 2 minute wait for a table for 2 around 730-8pm. seemed mostly full but not crowded all night.

            service was mostly good to great. a bit sloppy but fun and nice guys. they allowed us to bring in some beer from another shop which i appreciated.

            we ordered some classics to test them vs the other sichuan spots i go to regularly (grand sichuan st marks, legend, sichuan gourmet).

            dan dan noodles were rather huge and i liked them. they were mixed table side. i sort of prefer other variations but these were right up there.

            eggplant with garlic and oil was served very hot...i barely got to eat them in the restaurant. they had no heat to them at all. i did enjoy them the next day...cold.

            dry and spicy chicken. pretty good sized chunks of chicken fried well and with peppers. not the mind numbing heat ive had at other places but an enjoyable rendition.

            double cooked pork was meh. im not a huge fan of the dish generally but this version was weaker than most.

            4 dishes...after tip, maybe $60. its not a great spot but its solid enough. i suppose if i lived in the area, id consider going but then again grand sichuan st marks is only a few blocks south.

            1. Speaking only for myself, I don't need some Philadelphia desperado coming into Manhattan to show us what Sichuan is. Maybe that mix and match pick your sauce and protein works in the city of brotherly love, but Han just stepped into the big leagues.

              41 Replies
              1. re: AubWah

                Which Sichuan spots in Manhattan do you prefer?

                1. re: Chinon00

                  I would go to Szechuan Gourmet on 39th. Been eating there many years

                2. re: AubWah

                  If Han Dynasty is good then I welcome them. Over the last 10 years the bar has been set much higher but there's certainly room for more good restaurants.

                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                    i agree with you Bob Martinez, who cares where the restaurant is from as long as its good

                    now that said, i hope they brought better than their A game here bc their restaurant in philly was disappointing when i ate there

                    1. re: Lau

                      I'll be visiting the place sometime in the next 3 or 4 weeks and will report back.

                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                        great look forward to hearing about it

                      2. re: Lau

                        That's good to know. They're also opening up in LA, though not right away, so it doesn't sound like something to get excited over.

                        1. re: Chandavkl

                          really? they're opening in LA? wow

                          i mean look its possible for them to step up their game, but they were not on par with any of the better sichuan restaurants in NY when i ate there (i ate there with like 6 people so we were able to sample quite a few of their dishes)

                          1. re: Lau

                            Supposedly they're looking at West LA or perhaps Silver Lake. Can you say "hipster"?

                              1. re: Peter Cuce

                                actually i think that would be a huge addition to either of those areas while LA has good chinese food, its pretty much total crap outside of SGV

                                btw im not sure why everyone is so obsessed with "hipster" on the LA board!! i feel like that discussion comes up so much! haha (i dont really care though)

                                1. re: Peter Cuce

                                  In LA, if you have the goods, and the wherewithal to play with the big boys, you setup shop in SGV.

                                  Why? Because that's where your core clientele is going to be (assuming the above is true regarding your cooking acumen)

                                  Now, if you don't have either the goods, or the wherewithal to compete with the big boys, or both, then you go outside and try to feed off the low-hanging fruit (so to speak).

                                  It's no hating. Just a fact of restaurant life.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    we're getting a little off topic here

                                    sure ok i see what you're saying, but if you lived on the westside, wouldn't it be nice to have at least a decent option for chinese (you don't really right now)

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      This has been discussed ad naseum on the LA boards.

                                      Bottom line is that there aren't enough people on the westside to support authentic Chinese restaurants. You are a chowhound and will seek out food no matter what. But you are the 1% of the 1%. Many have tried and just about all have failed. The latest to try is DTF and we'll see how that shakes out.

                                      No offense to you, but it's not like you're the first person to come across this notion that "hey, isn't there a blind spot on the westside for good Chinese?"

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        i'm def not, but whatever this is way off topic anyhow and totally not worth discussing...lets get back to discussing more interesting topics (i like our taro discussion)

                                        1. re: Lau

                                          Yes indeed! A round of taro for everyone still up on the east coast keeping track of the NYC mayoral race.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            mmm taro...i'm thinking of trying to make the teochew yu ni i posted in that video...never made it before, seems easy

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              Go for it!

                                              Even if it comes out not exactly right, you still have basically taro paste mixed with sugar and lard. How can that *ever* be bad, right?

                                          2. re: Lau

                                            I don't exactly see how the discussion on taro is "on topic" for a thread about Han Dynasty.

                                            I'm ok on Sichuan food. I don't know why you need so many of these restaurants coming. What I'm more interested in is why there isn't a Din Tai Fung in the US outside of Seattle!? That's the Chinese restaurant chain I want to expand to NYC.

                                            1. re: fooder

                                              its not, we were talking about this in another thread, but its alot better than starting an age old hypothetical argument about chinese food and west LA (i dont like to get into pointless arguments on CH)

                                              1) it's extremely hard to get a franchise (i know some people who tried), which i believe is the reason (ipsedixit is in the chinese restaurant industry and maybe able to shed more light on this?)
                                              2) there are 2 stores in Arcadia, which is in the SGV in LA (they are very popular)

                                              1. re: Lau

                                                DTF sent their chefs to do cooking demonstrations in Flushing a few years ago and they were a sensation, so a New York location would certainly make economic sense. Ipse said something on the LA board about DTF firm decisions being guided by a company astrologer, which could explain the choice of locations.

                                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                                  yah my friends who tried to get the franchise said something similar to that (they had almost unlimited funding as well so it wasn't a funding issue either). I'm almost certain there would be lines out the door to the place for a very long time, so it doesn't seem to be an economic decision as you said.

                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                    DTF is like a chinese mafia with a very influential feng shui master on the payroll.

                                                    Not unlike the Reagan's during their time in the White House.

                                                    Can't really question DTF's strategy given that they were able to open up restaurants literally adjacent to one another and double the gross from each of those locations.

                                                    It's no wonder that word on the street is that the owners drive home using diversionary tactics (not unlike what drug dealers use to make sure they're not followed).

                                                    (As an aside DTF does not do franchising in the traditional sense).

                                        2. re: Lau

                                          That's the classic Chowhound false dichotomy. It's either great or it's crap. There's nothing in the middle.

                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                              Yep, I would never be against a good new restaurant opening up. However, I do wonder if we're in the midst of a Sichuan restaurant bubble. Is there really sufficient demand to support all these Sichuan places in Manhattan? Wouldn't want to see overall quality decline if competition gets too fierce.

                              1. re: churros

                                But doesn't competition improve quality?

                                1. re: Chinon00

                                  Hopefully. But we've had a surge in Sichuan restaurant openings here over the past few years and many of them are already very good. My worry is some of these restaurants may start to struggle.

                                  1. re: churros

                                    So then the cream will rise to the top no?
                                    Don't see how completion chases out the better restaurants.

                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      My thinking is if any of these restaurants see their business decline, then they may try to compensate in other ways that impact quality in order to maintain profits. My guess, and I could be wrong, is some of the better Sichuan restaurants in Midtown currently have a fair amount of customers that travel from other neighborhoods to eat there.

                                      Anyway, this is really just me wondering out loud. I certainly hope that Han Dynasty has good food and the Sichuan landscape continues to get better. Sorry that I led this thread way off topic.

                                  2. re: Chinon00

                                    But doesn't competition improve quality?

                                    Ask that same question about fast-food restaurants.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      I've got a better question. For awhile you've told us that Los Angeles Chinese restaurants are great. Has competition hurt the Sichuan dining scene in L.A.?

                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                        Competition (or the metastasized growth) of Taiwanese restaurants has in many ways stunted the development of other Chinese cuisines in SGV.

                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                          Well the latest Sichuan opening in Los Angeles, Chengdu Taste, has already become the biggest darling of them all. But ipse makes a very good point because Chinese restaurants in LA (and I suspect elsewhere in the US) suffer from what might be described as a copycat syndrome where restauranteurs see the latest fad and dive right in. We've seen that going back over 3 decades with BBQ delis, seafood restaurants, Hong Kong cafes, boba parlors, etc. etc. going from zero to saturation in a relatively short time.

                                          1. re: Chandavkl

                                            I can only speak for New York but the number of real Sichuan places in Manhattan (as opposed to faux "Sichuan") has increased from zero to about 15 in the past 10 years. Some are better than others but even the worst of them (for the sake of argument say the St. Marks branch of the Grand Sichuan mini chain) is still a pretty good neighborhood place.

                                            I'd say the boom is still happening. One of the positive signs is that all of these restaurants are doing good business. It's not like the same small group of diners is running to the latest hot opening and leaving last month's new restaurant empty.

                                            I look at it as a sign that an increasingly large group of people are gaining an appreciation of Sichuan food. There was a mini Sichuan boom in the late 1970s. This one is *much* larger.

                                            One of the things that I think will sustain it this time around is that we now have a substantial population of young affluent Chinese in the city. They support these restaurants strongly and a lot of Anglos have joined them.

                                    2. re: churros

                                      in my neighborhood, i think there are only two Sichuan places that deliver: Grand Sichuan St Marks which i think has declined in quality, and Legend, which is very inconsistent...so i hope Han is good

                                      1. re: Simon

                                        Maybe my worry is clouded by where I live. I'm in Midtown East with at least 5 Sichuan places.

                                        1. re: churros

                                          Yeah, you should send some of those to the West Village and UWS!

                                  3. re: AubWah

                                    Respectfully, I think you're not really getting the point of the place - what he's done in Philly is present Sichuan food outside of chinatown in a way that makes it comfortable for the cautious mom from the suburbs while still serving decent renditions of traditional sichuan food for the more adventurous (for the record, I doubt the Philly board would pick Han Dynasty as our best Sichuan place either)
                                    It's a little bit of a compromise - and I think he pretty clearly admits that. To make up for it he's done pretty legendary tasting menu-only banquets and several interesting collaborative dinners with some of Philly's best chefs. It might be interesting to see who he can hook up with in NY. (he's even got a mean-guy act he does with customers - food writers love it and I think he knows it. He's a marketer, not a chef)

                                    1. re: caganer

                                      "what he's done in Philly is present Sichuan food outside of chinatown in a way that makes it comfortable for the cautious mom from the suburbs while still serving decent renditions of traditional sichuan food for the more adventurous.."

                                      Just so I'm clear then are we saying that Manhattan Sichuan places do not do the same thing in some instances?

                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                        Not at all. I've made no reference to anything else in Manhattan because my only intent was to refute the notion that Han Dynasty is "coming into Manhattan to show [New Yorkers] what Sichuan is" as it clearly is not that.

                                      1. I will add to the speculation - it's hilarious that out of all these posts, I think 1 person has actually eaten at Han Dynasty. I dropped by today and had a chat with the owner. He was funny and ranted against American style Chinese food. Said he'd never serve an eggroll or a fortune cookie. Which I would guess is a good sign. I was raised by restaurateurs and I'd trust the argumentative type much more than somebody quick to compromise to win your buck. I had already eaten, but the lunch menu looked good (unlike the watered down lunches you normally find) which would be a good way to test the waters. And don't mistrust them because they're from Philadelphia, there are plenty of good places to eat there - for example NYC still hasn't caught up to Philly's Vietnamese food.

                                        1. There is no need to trust your hard-earned dollars at Han Dynasty to deliver the Sichuan goods. I would love to hear what Mr. Han Chiang’s business plan is. One hunch is that is mostly about serving a few dumbed-down Sichuan dishes near an urban university. And lets be sure to stay open until two a.m. three days a week. Han Dynasty packs very little ma and no la.

                                          The heart of the menu offers 14 entrées like Garlic Sauce Style, Kung Pao Style and Cumin Style where you then select your protein: usually chicken, beef, pork, fish, lamb or tofu. Or maybe scallops or shrimp. Although the menu presents numbers from one (mild) to ten ("quite spicy") in parenthesis next to many items, not to fear. It doesn’t really matter. Even after asking for the levels to be ramped up I tasted nothing spicy and absolutely no Sichuan peppercorns were used. Zilch. I sampled Doubled Cooked Style Pork, String Beans with Minced Pork, Long Hot Peppers with Tofu and Dry Pepper Style Chicken.

                                          The menu is very limited. There are no round tables. The sidewalk sign for the soft opening is still up. That has less to do with the annoying limitations of the kitchen and more to do with the tool-laden tradesmen coming to and fro. While I was there a sign was placed on the front door announcing that due to an electrical problem the restaurant would be closed until 6:00 p.m.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: scoopG

                                            yah thats what i thought experienced people were going to say; my experience in philly was very mediocre

                                          2. I ate at Han Dynasty twice so far and I like their 'Dry Pepper Chicken (辣子鷄)'. Han Dynasty's version is Chengdu (成都) style as opposed to Chongqing (重慶), which has chili bean sauce (toban djan, 豆瓣酱) and less Sichuan peppercorn (huājiāo, 花椒). They also offer this menu for lunch at $7.99.

                                                  1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                    I've been to Han Dynasty twice now and haven't had a single dish that I'd return for specifically. The mapo tofu was good but not better than Land of Plenty. The dumplings in chili oil were good but not better than Szechuan Gourmet. The dan dan isn't even better than my local UWS Grand Sichuan. What's not on par is the service. I'll say it's the worst service I've had at any restaurant in NYC ever. On my first visit, the waiter stacked a new dish on top of an empty plate. I wouldn't even do that at home - alone - in pajamas - eating leftover takeout.

                                                    1. re: coasts

                                                      My only memory of the food at Han Dynasty is that they go really heavy on the "numbing spice". Some people I dined with loved the food especially for that spice. For me it was overpowering and stayed with me long after I finished eating. It killed my tasting the flavors in the dishes without it.
                                                      Scoop, thanks for the link to NYT review. so I'm editing now that I read it. I hope his review of Hirohisa doesn't draw crowds. I love that place. I was told the chef was a chef at a well known ryokan in Kyoto. They should have gotten more than 1 star.

                                                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                        It's interesting how no one's opinion matches anyone else's.

                                                        Too much sichuan peppercorn, too little sichuan peppercorn, good service, bad service, great Dan Dan, terrible Dan Dan...even the pro reviews are diametrically opposed.

                                                        In fact, I've been to two of his six Philly restaurants, and the experience is different at both (actually between his old HQ in Center City, and it's new "steakhouse" location too).

                                                        1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                          i think certain things are static: they use American-Chinese ingredients like bell pepper, they use more sugar than truer Sichuan places like Szechuan Gourmet do, etc

                                                          1. re: Simon

                                                            He's definitely not going after "authentic" Sichuan, but that is fine as far as I'm concerned. In everything else, we look for creativity and uniqueness, but somehow ethic restaurants are only supposed to be "authentic"?

                                                            1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                              in a word: no

                                                              HD's food is neither authentic nor creative: it's watered-down Americanized Sichuan cuisine for a college town...that's also "fine", if that's what you want and it's near your dorm and you like it...it's not empirically bad, it's just not that interesting...enjoy if it works for you; but don't hype it as anything special in a city where far better Sichuan food is served at 10 other places...

                                                              1. re: Simon

                                                                Obviously a lot of NYers disagree with you, including reviewers. No need to insult them.

                                                                1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                                  i'm not insulting them at all -- i'm just accurately describing what is being served...if people like it, they should eat it

                                                                  1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                                    Eh, no. You are not paying attention. There are not that many actual reviews of the place on this thread. The one positive review you cited (ex NY Magazine) is from someone not well versed in Chinese food. No one is throwing insults around. We get it: you are not happy that the locals have seemingly ganged up on a Philadelphia brother. Han Dynasty is putting out American-Chinese food for the NYU faithful. It is unfortunate that Philadelphia does not have better Sichuan options.


                                                                2. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                                  Not at all. Mission Chinese has been favorably reviewed by Wells and is far from "authentic" -- eg. kung pao pastrami, thrice cooked bacon and rice cakes, etc.

                                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                    I found the flavors of what I had at Mission to be pretty "authentic", perhaps not the most common ingredients or presentation. :)

                                                                  2. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                                    i dont think han chiang at han dynasty is really doing anything creative or unique per se, he's just cooking fairly standard sichuan dishes and allows you to sort of create a DIY thing at his NY restaurant.

                                                                    If you wanted something creative and unique places like mission chinese or yunnan kitchen are doing something that is certainly unique and not trying to be "authentic" (now some people will like or not like that, but its hard to argue they are not doing something creative and unique).

                                                                    I have yet to try his NY restaurant, but I have tried his philly one and i never reported on it bc i try to only report on things worth trying and don't like writing negative reports.

                                                                    what he did well was:
                                                                    1) offer something to philly that wasnt that readily available and is fairly unique in philly (very little sichuan food in philly)
                                                                    2) has done an excellent job marketing and creating a buzz about his restaurant

                                                                    It's a business and that's great for him, but if you're arguing that he's turning out great sichuan food or he's doing something creative or unique i think thats a bit of a stretch

                                                                    1. re: Lau

                                                                      he also sounds like a bit of a character; it sounds like he wants to be a celebrity

                                                                      1. re: Lau

                                                                        I do like fusion food, especially when chef's name is Vongerichten. For comparison, millions of grandmas around the world have churned out some fantastic ethnic food.

                                                                        In general, it is so much harder to create a really great fusion food than to stay faithful to an ethnic/cultural tradition. That's why, IMHO, authenticity is considered so valuable.

                                                                        1. re: diprey11

                                                                          i agree with that, its very difficult to create great fusion food, but clearly it can be done, just look at Japan with italian or french cuisine

                                                                          Where i think you end up with a backlash in America in particular is where you get this "Asian fusion food" and basically someone either:
                                                                          1) just slapped together a few different asian cuisines did nothing new (sushi and thai food or whatever) and just ended up making really crappy versions of the "authentic" original dish or
                                                                          2) took something they perceive as "asian" like sweet & sour or chilli sauce or black bean and then slopply slapped it onto something and you just get some crap dish

                                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                                            Exactly. It's not the idea that's bad, it's the execution.

                                                                      2. re: Lau

                                                                        Whatever he's doing, he's doing something right.

                                                                        Wouldn't mind switching bank accounts with him.

                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                          "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."

                                                                          H. L. Mencken

                                                        2. Tried the dan dan noodles, dry pepper chicken, pork belly in garlic sauce and pea shoots with garlic.

                                                          Nothing stood out.

                                                          The dan dan noodles were a little too spongy, not enough flavor, needed some bright scallion flavor.

                                                          I don't like the coating, the seasoning on the coating of the dry pepper chicken, it doesn't taste very fresh/clean (not that they're reusing oil, it's hard to explain). I prefer the version at Spicy Tasty with second fave going to Szechuan Gourmet.

                                                          Pork belly with garlic sauce was a bit too sweet for me, otherwise good.

                                                          Pea shoots with garlic used stems and leaves that were too mature and tough.

                                                          All and all, not motivated to order there again. Not the worst Sichuan food in NYC but far from the best.