Han Dynasty

By Phyllis Stein-Novack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 10 | Posted Jan. 30, 2014

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The menu at Old City-based Han Dynasty highlights Sichuan dishes that are known to be on the spicier side of the tasting scale.

Photo by Staff Photo by Kathryn Poole

Chinese New Year begins tomorrow. In honor of the Year of the Horse, I decided to review Han Dynasty, which opened in Old City three months ago.

The restaurant is known for its Sichuan food where spice is king. Hot peppers are featured in many of the dishes. I like spicy food, but when a chef goes overboard with a much-too-heavy hand, problems arise. It is difficult to savor ingredients when they are masked by too much heat.

Han Dynasty is located in a beautiful space that has been the home of several types of restaurants. It features a lovely bar, bar seating and comfortable booths and banquettes. The original Corinthian columns set off the looming hand-painted ceiling.

Our delightful server brought us a pot of lukewarm tea and helped us navigate through the menu. He told us the restaurant serves traditional Chinese food family style with portions large enough to share.

Since the menu centers on Sichuan fare, heat indicators are set off by numbers, with 10 being the hottest. I had questions about the difference between the dumplings and the wonton appetizers. The dumplings, stuffed with ground pork, were served with a hot sauce with a bit of sweetness. This sounded delicious.

Han Dynasty’s dumplings ($6.95) were nestled in a bowl of chili oil that was so hot, tears sprang to my eyes, and every pore of my being was affected. I wanted to taste the dumplings, so they were whisked away and came back rinsed with a small dish of soy sauce on the side. The wrapper was light and silken so the texture was spot on. There could have been a bit more ground pork inside, but I could finally taste these treats.

The same thing occurred with the spicy crispy cucumbers ($6.95). Much too much chili oil masked the half-moons of cool cukes.

Since I am a soup girl, I knew any kind of rich Chinese soup would warm us up on a cold winter’s night. Edward and I looked at the choices and with our server’s help, tucked into bowls of pork with pickled vegetables ($6.95). The stock had a little kick because bits of hot peppers floated in the broth. I avoided them completely, and found the broth to be tasty with just a hint of heat. Strands of pork shared company with strands of pickled Asian greens that played off each other quite nicely. I think the addition of noodles would have given the soup more texture.

For our entrees, we avoided the heat completely. We just wanted three dishes that were well-seasoned, as I hoped the ingredients would shine on their own.

Shredded duck with ginger ($18.95) hit the mark. The duck was boneless, tender, juicy and not a bit greasy. It hit the hot wok with julienned green beans, green peppers, scallions, fresh fragrant ginger and a hint of soy sauce. It was a rich and satisfying dish.

Cumin lamb ($16.95) consisted of bits of lamb, probably cut from the leg or shoulder, encrusted with cumin and simply wok-fried with onions, garlic and peppers. The sauce was light with soy so that it did not detract from the flavor of the meat.

Since most entrees feature onions, green peppers and scallions, we wanted to sample a vegetable dish. Baby bok choy with black trumpet mushrooms ($11.95) was a hearty mix of slightly still crunchy bok choy married with heady mushrooms coated in a rich soy hoisin sauce.

“The sauce is really good on the rice,” Edward said as he munched with his chopsticks.

It was, indeed.

These entrees wiped away the memory of over-the-top-hot dishes.

Han Dynasty has a full bar. The prices are moderate. A martini is $10, while the wine list features vintages at about $8.

Service was excellent. Our waiter was helpful and knew the dishes well, which is necessary for first-time visitors to Han Dynasty.

Three tips of the toque to Han Dynasty. 

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Comments 1 - 10 of 10
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1. Tony said... on Jan 30, 2014 at 05:45PM

“Peking Inn
2020 Penrose Ave Ste 1
J C Chinese Restaurant
1701 S 8th St
China Express
1300 Federal St
China House
1739 E Passyunk Ave
China House
1600 S 7th St
Wong Ki Restaurant
600 Washington Ave
Good Flavor Chinese Restaurant
2439 S 12th St
Lucky Day
758 S 22nd St
Superstar Chinese Take Out
1122 S 22nd St
China House
2123 W Oregon Ave
Mr Wong's Chinese Restaurant
1849 Wolf St
Oriental Chinese Restaurant
1800 S Broad St
San Lok Chinese Restaurant
1239 Point Breeze Ave
Number One China
843 S 2nd St
China House
49 Snyder Ave
New China
2354 S 7th St
Q Q Chinese Restaurant
633 W Oregon Ave
Happy Dragon Chinese Rstrnt
2047 S 3rd St
Dragon King
1805 Washington Ave
China Inn Restaurant
2027 S Broad St
Great Wall Chinese Restaurant
1441 S 7th St
China Garden
2120 S Broad St
Michael Chinese Restaraunt
1601 Wharton St
1900 S 23rd St
Chinamoto LLC
777 S Broad St
Happy Dragon Chinese Rstrnt
330 W Oregon Ave
China House
1441 Snyder Ave

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2. Tony said... on Jan 30, 2014 at 06:02PM

“Two comments stood out in this review:
1) Han Dynasty has a full bar.
2) In honor of the Year of the Horse, I decided to review Han Dynasty, which opened in Old City three months ago.

This says to me that the reviewer and her companion value liquor and the companionship of Center City yuppies above all. See my list above. It's not like she couldn't have chosen one restaurant out of those 27 to celebrate the year of the horse. Doesn't this paper serve South Philadelphia?”

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3. Thacher said... on Jan 30, 2014 at 06:29PM

“I happen to have graduated from Penn and (gasp) live in South Philly. All Phyllis has to do is state that there are far better and far more dining options in Center City than some ofmthe hole-in-the-wall takeout places listed above. Folks like Tony need to expand their horizons. Whatsamatter, can't find your way to Front & Chestnut?”

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4. Marty Medals said... on Jan 30, 2014 at 06:37PM

“"Tony Said " said it all.
As soon as I have the new South Philly Dining Facebook page up I will post a link here.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Jan 31, 2014 at 01:51PM

“I'm confused why the reviewer, who clearly does not like spicy food, would choose to eat at a Sichuan restaurant.”

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6. TLJ said... on Feb 3, 2014 at 11:47AM

“Thacher; I'm glad you graduated from Penn - so did I (86).

You pompous comment made it sound that since you graduated from Penn and reside in South Philly and not CC/Radnor/Narberth ... you have special degree of intelligence and can enlighten us all to a better class of dining.

Here are the facts as I see them:

1) This is a neighborhood newspaper based in South Philly and targeting South Philly.
2) Going outside of the neighborhood and venturing a mile past some real/imagined line won't kill anyone or ruin the paper.
3) This reviewer constantly reviews restaurants out of South Philly while not reviewing others.
4) Much of what's in this and other reviews doesn't make a lot of sense. If you don't like spicy foods don't order things in chili oil. The reviews do seem slanted (in my opinion :))to locations/restaurants that she likes. There are places that get a higher review when many dishes get criticized.
5) Sometimes store front take-outs aren't so bad.

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7. BLT said... on Feb 3, 2014 at 07:27PM

“I gone to Temple. I knows good dinning. Don't need no class at Penn. That a fact as I see em.”

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8. ParkerSmith said... on May 19, 2014 at 04:06AM

“Loved to read your blog. I would like to suggest you that traffic show most people read blogs on Mondays. So it should encourage blogger to write new write ups over the weekend primarily

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9. ParkerSmith said... on Jun 9, 2014 at 05:20AM

“THAT is a Chinese restaurant? Oh, how I miss San Francisco.

Restaurant recommendations in Singapore

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10. AlexSmith said... on Jul 16, 2014 at 03:56AM

“Cool post very informative. I just found your site and read through a few posts although this is my first comment, i'll be including it in my favorites and visit again for sure”


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