Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Han Dynasty

The Women's World Cup ended months ago, so we should probably finish those challenge recaps...

After our Women's World Cup challenge lunch at Northern Tiger, we continued our Chinese eating day with a trip to Philly import Han Dynasty. We had both read so much about how good the restaurant was and had wanted to go for a while (but we hate crowds), so we were really happy to get in without a wait (that's rare). We've had plenty of Sichuan food before so we were pretty excited to taste their take on it.

We did some research while perusing the menu and found the things that most people seemed to like when ordering. It seemed like there was near universal agreement on the 2 appetizers to get (we got both), and after that, a lot of the entrees were more of a personal preference. We started off with dumplings in chili oil (spice level 4) ($6.95). (All the menu items indicate their spice level, which was helpful, but we had no basis to figure out what a 4 or a 6 or an 8 meant in terms of our own tolerance.) These were similar to a lot of dumplings we've eaten from various other Sichuan restaurants, and they did not disappoint. We love these types of dumplings and the chili oil is a perfect accompaniment for the dumpling filling. 

The other widely loved appetizer was the dan dan noodles (spice level 6) ($7.95). We had eaten dan dan noodles before, and we really liked them so we figured we should try their offering if it was so highly touted. We're glad we did. There's something different with how they prepare their noodles. There was a subtle sweetness to the dish that you don't find in most places. The Sichuan peppercorns and chili oil provided the same level of heat we're accustomed to, and the soy sauce and scallions rounded out the dish. That hint of sweetness, though, is what really lingered with us and also what made this such a good dish.

For the entrees, the first one A chose was the dry pepper style chicken (spice level 8), which was described as triple flash fried chicken with long hots and dry chili peppers ($13.95). M was a little wary of what a spice level 8 might be, but figured at least it would be offset by our other entree if it were too spicy. It wasn't. Apparently we can tolerate a spice level 8 at Han Dynasty just fine (although we should note that we did not eat all the chili peppers on the plate, so maybe we didn't actually eat it at spice level 8).

This dish was really good. The spice was intense but in a good (and mostly tolerable) way. We felt our tongues numbing from the Sichuan peppercorns, but weren't unhappy about that. The chicken was fried well and packed with flavor. The pepper, scallion, onion garnish that came on top of the chicken reminded us of the garlic, onion, and pepper garnish that comes on top of the pork chops we usually get at Cantonese family dinners, except a spicy Sichuan version that was so good over rice. Overall, we really liked this and would absolutely eat it again.

The last dish we got was the crispy rice style chicken (spice level 0), which, according to the menu, had a sweet and sour sauce with bamboo shoots, tomatoes, black mushrooms, and pea leaves (what pea leaves?) served on pillows of sizzling crispy rice ($14.95). M wasn't sure what to expect with this one, but it wasn't really what arrived. When she hears crispy rice, she always thinks about the crispy rice (topped with tuna tartare) from Koi, which is more like blocks of stickier rice with crispy outside edges. These were more like dried, crispy blocks of rice which dissolved, broke apart, and gelatinized a little bit once they sat in the sauce for a while. Not at all what she thought it would be, but it was what A imagined. He'd eaten this sort of puffed rice cake thing when he was younger so he knew what to expect.

The flavors of this dish were fine, but nothing special in our opinion. The sweet and sour sauce was okay, it was nice to have vegetables to offset the other dishes, and the flavor was nice, but it just couldn't hold its own against the other entree we had on the table.

We really enjoyed our dinner at Han Dynasty and would definitely go back. We wouldn't get the crispy rice style again, but the other 3 dishes we got were all hits. 

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