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Han Dynasty Center City


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#61 philadining

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Posted 30 July 2010 - 01:19 PM

Han is on a roll: in addition to getting three bells from Laban, Han Dynasty just got awarded Best Chinese in Philly Mag's Best of Philly 2010 edition. Congrats!

We dropped by late-ish on a wednesday and the place was jammed, so beware, there may be a line... And the first-monday $25 tasting menus are apparently selling-out WAY in advance, despite the fact that he's added another one on the third mondays. Still, it's worth calling and checking, but don't be surprised if you have to book a table for a few weeks down the line!

and bsims: it's true that Han himself is a big part of the experience, but I've eaten at the Exton and Royersford branches since he's been devoting most of his time to center city, and they're still good. Are they as good as they used to be? It's always so hard to say, there's actually a bit of variation depending on the strengths of the chefs working at each place, so the trick is learning which dishes are best at which place. Before, Han would just tell you. Overall I'd say that the suburban spots are still quite good, but take a little more effort to learn on one's own because you don't have Han there to guide you. The staff at those places is perfectly nice, but nobody's very likely to tell you that one of their dishes sucks, like Han used to!

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#62 lfabio2007

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 09:52 AM

Aw crud. We wanted to go today. No chance without reservations?

#63 lfabio2007

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 10:03 AM

...and I called. Reserved until *November 15th*. As usual the article was fatal.

#64 Buckethead

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 11:24 AM

...and I called. Reserved until *November 15th*. As usual the article was fatal.


You mean for the First Monday dinners, I hope? If it's any consolation, I went to the last one, and I've been there for the regular menu, and I'd rather order off the regular menu any day of the week. The spice levels on all the dishes at the Monday dinner were toned down, and one dish in particular (the spicy cucumbers) I had both off the menu and at the Monday dinner, and they were better off the regular menu. The variety of dishes at the Monday meal obviously can't be beat for the money, but at least the time I went, only about half of the dishes were things I'd want to eat again. I don't know if it was just lucky ordering, but when I went and just ordered off the menu, we ordered five dishes and they were all great. At the Monday dinner, we didn't have five great dishes all night. It was definitely an interesting experience but I have no desire to repeat it, I'd rather go back and order off the menu.

#65 sunra

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 12:22 PM

We had the same experience this past weekend. We've been to Royersford when Han was there, and we have become big big fans of his restaurants/amazing chefs!

Peeking in the door Saturday around 6 pm revealed a dining room about a third full with no food on the tables, a number of people waiting to be seated and no one at the front of the house. A waitress was seen, but she appeared oblivious/overwhelmed/unable to help. That was our cue to come back another time rather that risk a painful experience. We called Sunday evening around 6pm, and Han answered the phone. I asked about tonight and about the Monday festive meals. he said they were crazy busy, not to come in and that the festive meals were sold out through November. He said it's been crazy crazy crazy! I told him we are so glad he is busy, and that we'll see him some other night.

While I am bummed he is too busy, I do hope he is able to handle the crowds. My wife insists this mania will blow over, and we will be able to enjoy the company of Han and his cuisine.

BTW, we walked up to DSGarden, which was as good as ever, and we scored some free Durian with the kitchen staff there! Weird stuff.

#66 philadining

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 12:41 PM

Yes, just to be clear, it's the Monday dinners that are booked up, one can certainly get a table on other nights, although he's more crowded than usual. There might be a wait, Han might be running around rather than sitting with you, but you can get a table. Of course friday and saturday nights are the busiest times, but that was true before the review.

And I have to say that I agree with Buckethead - I enjoyed the Monday tasting menu thing, the variety is interesting, but all in all, I think I'd rather just order off the menu. Those monday dinners are a bargain, and you might discover a new dish, and maybe you'll meet somebody interesting sitting next to you, but it also feels a little frantic, I was losing track of what was what, which things I liked, etc.

It's definitely more fun with a few friends, so one can eat a few different things, but 70 people might be too many...

He's doing those monday dinners twice a month now, and it's always worth checking to see if he's had cancellations, if you've interested.

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#67 Capaneus

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 05:02 PM

I'd say the Monday dinners are a great introduction to Han Dinasty, and Sichuan food in general: you get to try a boatload of stuff, find out what you like really fast, and don't need a second mortgage to do it. But I'll agree that I'd rather go with a smaller group (even if I did eat for two weeks on $25, last time I did the Monday dinner...), and find new things on Han's say-so.

#68 mod*betty

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 05:58 AM

Doing some research for work I came across this deal for Han Dynasty:

Pay just $10 for $20 worth of food and drinks at any of Han Dynasty's three greater Philadelphia restaurants.

http://www.eversave....?sourceid=59300

It expires today, so if you can get to a Han near you, enjoy!
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#69 philadining

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 11:34 AM

We had a surprising experience at Han Dynasty this past Saturday: no Han! Jeeze, he wins a Best of Philly and gets three Bells from Laban and now Han thinks he can take a few hours off?!? Slacker...

The good news is that the food was as good as ever, and things ran just fine in his absence. Of course it's always fun to chat with Han, and if you're new to the place, it's very helpful to have his guidance, but it's reassuring to know that things don't go all to hell if he's checking in on one of the other locations, or maybe even getting some sleep for a change.

I had some friends visiting from NYC, who are very knowledgeable (and picky) about Sichuan food, and I'm happy to say that they were very pleased with the meal. I ordered mostly my favorite stuff, along with a few things they specifically wanted to compare to their favorite places. We had:

Dan Dan Noodles
Wontons in Chili Oil
Cold Chicken in Chili Oil
Pork Belly in Garlic Sauce
Green Bean Noodles

then

Fish in Dry Pot
Deep-Fried Shredded Beef
Tea-Smoked Duck
Sichuan Green Beans

It was all really tasty. If I had any small complaints, it would br that the beef was a little tame. I think this chef makes it relatively mild compared to the chef in Royersford, and I forgot to ask for it extra spicy, but it was still very good as it came out. With the inevitable spice-level creep, leftovers became just about perfect! The Dan Dan noodles might have been just a touch overcooked, but that slightly soft texture didn't really detract much from the great flavors. The Tea Smoked Duck was outrageously good. Even the one member of our party that doesn't usually like that dish ended up raving about it. And the Fish in Dry Pot is simply one of the best things to eat in the city right now.

Of course we would have enjoyed chatting with Han, his advice, jokes, or verbal abuse can definitely add to the overall experience, but if you already know what you want to order, you can do just fine if he's otherwise occupied. If you DO need advice and Han doesn't happen to be there, ask if Eric is around, he can take good care of you too.

The chefs are back there doing what they do, so you can be pretty confident of getting good food in any case.

In other news: in an attempt to keep up with demand, they added another night for the tasting menu - it's now on the first AND third mondays of the month. But I'm not sure the tactic has worked, both of the nights are apparently booked-up into November or December... Still, it's worth a call to see if space has opened up, if you're interested.

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#70 ilovefood

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Posted 06 October 2010 - 05:45 PM

We tried the Han Dynasty in Exton and have been back multiple times.
Thanks goodness some one has opened an authentic Chinese place.
We'll keep going back for this menu.

#71 percyn

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Posted 07 October 2010 - 10:16 AM

I frequent the Royersford location about once a week and am happy to say that the quality of the food is still high. Granted that banter with Han or the occasional dish he would have the chef create on the fly are added perks to the dining experience, but it should not keep you from visiting the suburb locations.

Royersford is going to be holding a feast orchestrated by Han (in person) every 2nd Tues, so if you need you "Han fix", make a reservation for that dinner (approx 20 courses for $25 if I recall).

BTW, they used to offer chopsticks by default and recently changed that.

#72 mod*betty

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Posted 19 November 2010 - 08:11 PM

I've actually been to the Rofo Han twice in the past 2 weeks and had the usual high standard of tasty food there both times. RetroRoadhusband was not able to make it to either of those visits so when we were in Exton tonight we decided to stop in at that location so he could get his fix.

Alas, the food was not up to par with what we had had there before, and also not as good as the Royersford location. It was still tasty, mind you, but not on the same bursting with flavor level as the food I had on Monday near home. I also noticed that the menu seemed to have been scaled down from what it was last time we were there.

One thing that does somewhat irk me now that there are 3 Han Dynasty locations in the "chain" that all 3 of them do not serve the same dishes, or the dishes are kind of the same, but different.

Case in point - we tried to order the dumplings in hot chili oil that we're addicted to up in RF, but Exton said they did not have them, just wontons in chili oil. We got those and the wontons/dumplings appeared to be the same thing, but the chili oil sauce was not up to par with the delicious sauce we were used to.

Also I ordered the Spicy Noodles with Minced Pork (as it is called on the menu) and the waiter said "oh you want the dan dan noodles". I had just had the dan dan noodles in Royersford a few weeks ago and knew I didn't want them, and actually knew that the Noodles with Pork were a different preparation that I prefer to the dan dan noodles. What arrived at our table was in fact what I had hoped to get, the Spicy Noodles with Minced Pork.

Anyone know why the menus are different and why they all wouldn't just offer the same things? I'd love to be able to get the noodles with pork without having to drive to Exton :-)
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#73 philadining

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Posted 22 November 2010 - 11:31 AM

The three menus are a little bit different, mostly because they have different chefs, who have some of their own specialties. I've definitely noticed that certain dishes, even with the same names, are done differently at each restaurant, and I actually kind of like that. Sure, it can be frustrating if you prefer how it's done at one place, but it's more convenient to go to another one, but I like the variation, that it's not just a chain pumping out food by a formula.

As for the spicy noodles with pork vs. Dan Dan noodles: it's always a little confusing when there are similar dishes, especially if a server might have misunderstood and brought something else. But I'm pretty confident that on all the menus, those two names are used for the same dish, listed on the menu in Chinese as:

成都旦旦麵

(which is actually Chengu Dan Dan Noodles.)


There are a couple of possibilities: maybe someone brought you the (not spicy) Noodles with Meat Sauce: 四川炸醬麵 and that's the one you like. Or maybe there's just some variation in how the different places make their Dan Dan noodles. But generally, at Han Dynasty, noodles with spicy meat sauce = Dan Dan Noodles.

I don't speak or read Mandarin, but I have found it really helpful to recognize some of the names, or at least some of the characters. The Dan Dan noodles is pretty easy to spot, because of the repeated character: 旦旦 (And 麵 is noodles.)

炸醬麵 is zhà​jiàng ​miàn​, the not-so-spicy version of noodles with meat sauce, although it might still have a little chili kick. Again, that last character is noodles, and if you're curious, the 炸 means fried, and 醬 is sauce.

So it's often worth memorizing, or making a note of, the Chinese characters for dishes you like, that way you can at least point at the dish on the menu, especially if there's some ambiguity between similar preparations.

The names of dishes are not always so straightforward - sometimes they are - basically the name of the primary ingredient, a cooking style and often the size/shape of the cut of the main ingredient (fried-sauce-noodle, or sliced-stirfried-chicken, etc.) But just as often, they have more poetic names, so you might just need to memorize what the name looks like.

---

On another note, I got some takeout from Exton recently, and noticed that they had a sign up for a tasting menu there on Wednesdays. I meant to make a note about which Wednesdays, but I forgot... I'll try to update here, but it appears that one can do tasting menus at all three locations: every other monday in Center City, every other Tuesday in Royersford, and perhaps every other Wednesday in Exton (or at least one Wednesday per month.) The website doesn't say anything, but it's worth calling and asking about if you're interested.

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#74 handmc

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 02:50 PM

I have stopped going to the royersford and exton locations all together. Since Han moved himself to philly both have had over a half a dozen meals there and there are not the same when Han is in residence. Service at the royersford location has been consistently poor 45-1 wait for entree items. I double cooked pork and got pig intestines. I went with it a GAAH I like offal, just not offal that tastes like Sh#$@. I have had pig intestine before, this was a cleaning issue and put me off the location for 4 months. The food with the noted exception is good but the service challenges again and again caused me to give up. I used to go 3-4 times a month. I would say something to Han but he is not there. I don't about you all but I don't think Sichuan travels well and don't like what happens to it in a take out container so if I don't eat in I don't buy it at all. I miss my favorite spicy restaurant. :(

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#75 philadining

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 12:07 PM

I've been going to all three sporadically for the last year: it just so happens that the Exton location is relatively close to work, Royersford is not too far from home, and Center City is close to most of my friends.

I'll certainly say that I prefer the Center City location, but I'm not even sure it's all about Han, I've been there a few times when he wasn't there. I think I might just like the style of the chefs there. But I've still gotten very good food at the other two, even very recently, I even slightly prefer a couple of dishes at Royersford...

I've had no big complaints about service at any of them. Obviously, Han knows me, and so does his mom, so if they're around I get treated nicely, but I've definitely been to both suburban places when I didn't know any of the servers and they didn't recognize me, not even just as a repeat customer, and it's been fine.

Yes, it's definitely better to have Han wait on you, and yes, many of the other staff at the suburban places aren't going to win any awards for outstanding service, but at least in my experience, they haven't been a problem. So I'm not writing-off the Exton or Royersford places yet. But it's true, I do tend to drive into the city when I can.


Speaking of which, Han mentioned something about this a while back, and I just finally saw some concrete details: He's doing a fusion-y dinner in collaboration with David Ansill and Sam Jacobson (from the very good restaurant called Sycamore out in Landsdale). Sounds fascinating.

Details:
http://foobooz.com/2...-american-food/

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#76 SaxChik

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 10:04 AM

According to Michael Klein, "Meat & Potatoes, the Food Network show hosted by Rahm Fama and devoted to meat sandwiches, is in town today through Friday to shoot at the Original Nick’s, Han Dynasty, and Village Whiskey. Be aware of dining room closures." Han's gonna get some national exposure!
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#77 SaxChik

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 06:25 PM

I talked to Han's mom today and she said they filmed for 12 hours (11am-11pm) for an 8 minute segment. She thinks it'll air in March.
"The perfect lover is one who turns into pizza at 4am."
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#78 philadining

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 02:10 PM

Hansill-menu.jpg

The uncharacteristically inauthentic food served at Han Dynasty on Monday 12/13, the result of an experiment in cross-cultural collaboration, was truly interesting and delicious. Unlike many fusions, the flavor combinations generally didn't feel forced, even when they were in some cases, quite novel.

I'll attribute that to the natural way in which the collaboration arose: chefs David Ansill and Sam Jacobson eat at Han Dynasty frequently, so they're familiar with Sichuan flavors, even if they don't use them in their everyday cooking. Han Chiang might make a big deal about the authenticity of the dishes at his restaurant, but he lives in contemporary America, and eats American food, so at least coming up with ideas was probably not a huge stretch for any of them.

But whether new combinations work on the palate as well as they do in the imagination is another question altogether. I'm not sure how many failed experiments there may have been along the way, but everything that arrived on our table was quite successful, or at least to my personal liking...

Amuse: Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Chili Oil

Hansill-soup.jpg

Salmon Carpaccio, Tofu Sauce, Chili Oil

Hansill-salmon.jpg

Pigs' Ears, Cabbage, Pickled Turnip

Hansill-pigear.jpg

Flat Iron Steak, Arugula, Sichuan Vinaigrette

Hansill-steak2.jpg
Hansill-steak.jpg

Sweetbreads with Roasted Salsify

Hansill-sweetbreads.jpg

Tea-Smoked Ribs

Hansill-ribs.jpg

Sichuan Shredded Potato

Hansill-potato.jpg

Tendon and Mushroom "Noodle" Lasagne

Hansill-lasagne2.jpg

Warm Ginger Cake, Sichuan Peppercorn Ice Cream, Chili Ginger Walnut Syrup

Hansill-dessert.jpg


I quite liked it all, but those ribs are haunting my dreams. The Lasagne was pretty great too, recalling an elegant Dan Dan noodle, in a different shape... the Beef was pretty straighforward, but delicious, it wouldn't be out of place on any modern bistro-ish place in the city. The pigs-ear was boldly spicy, and perhaps the least fusiony of anything, it seemed pretty fully Chinese, but had a unique texture, and played a nice bright counterpoint to some of the richer dishes. The sweetbreads were like what you wish General Tso's could be - a tangy sauce over a crispy, yet creamy nugget. And that dessert! It was controversial: the ice cream was just ringing with Sichuan peppercorn, like the strongest mint ice cream imaginable, except it wasn't just tingly, it was numbing too... I thought it worked really well with the sweet cake, and enjoyed it overall, but several folks thought it was too much. But hey, it was interesting!

Despite a few last-minute cancellations, they had a large crowd at two seatings, so I think it was a success. Chef Jacobson was already talking about perhaps doing something similar out at his restaurant, Sycamore. I hope so...

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#79 KatieLoeb

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 08:25 PM

Sucks that I had to work that night and miss this. Looks awesome. What an interesting collection of dishes they came up with! Any clues on who influenced which ones?

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#80 angevin

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 06:52 AM

Thanks for the report and fabulous pictures - sorry I missed it.
I WANT THOSE SWEETBREADS!!

#81 Tim Dolan

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 08:30 AM

Think any of these items might make it onto the normal menu?
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#82 philadining

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 07:41 PM

Think any of these items might make it onto the normal menu?


Unlikely... that style is just not the Han Dynasty thing. We did beg and plead and offered our first-born children to Han if he'd put those ribs on the menu. I think that's actually a traditional dish, but their kitchen's tea-smoking skills are so awe-inspiring that those ribs were more than your average smoky meat. I think everyone should make a point to ask for them, maybe they'll show up as a special, at least!

Katie - I'm sure some dishes were mostly created by of one of the three, but they seemed to want to keep that somewhat vague, saying that it really was a collaboration, that each contributed something, be it an idea or an ingredient, or production of some component. I don't know whose inspiration resulted in each course, but even the ones that were Sam's or Davids, probably used Han's chili oil, etc. I think the steak might have been Han's idea, but I'd bet somebody else cooked it. The dessert is a good example: the cake was all Sam, riffing on a traditional English Christmas pudding; the ice cream was obviously Han-inspired (although I don't know who actually made it); the syrup was David's.

We've been lucky to have a bunch of chef collaborations in town lately, I hope they keep going!

Edited by philadining, 16 December 2010 - 07:51 PM.


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#83 BarbaraKMarshall

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Posted 17 December 2010 - 08:52 AM

I wish you'd made it as well, Katie! It was quite an experience. I agree with all of Philadining's comments about the meal.

Philadining- Franklin Fountain was responsible for the creation of the ice cream.

I too doubt if any of these items will wind up on the menu but also hope to have those ribs again :)

#84 nolnacs

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Posted 17 December 2010 - 12:28 PM

I don't think I have seen anyone mention this dish at Han Dynasty in this thread yet, but the spicy cucumbers are unbelievably good. I admit that the combination sounds a little strange (at least it did to me before I tried it), but it works perfectly. There is a hint of sweetness to go along with the heat of the chili oil and the crunch of the cucumber.

If you have not yet tried this dish, I highly recommend it.

#85 SaxChik

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 08:07 PM

Our man Han's gonna be on the Food Network (Meat & Potatoes) on March 21st. The episode's called Meat with Heat. Be there or be square!
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#86 BarbaraKMarshall

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 01:33 PM

Meat and Potatoes airs 3/21 10 p.m.

#87 philadining

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 10:35 AM

Han was kind enough to accommodate a last-minute reservation, we called a little rudely close to closing time, but I'm so happy he managed to squeeze us in. The food was great, our visiting VIP was happy, Philly seemed cooler than ever.

The convention and visitor's bureau ought to give Han an award or something: I've sent lots of visitors home raving about how great the food is in Philly, after just one visit to Han Dynasty...

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#88 KatieLoeb

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 03:22 PM

DVR set for Monday's upcoming "Meat with Heat" episode. I can hardly wait to see Han on TV. This should be most intriguing.

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#89 KatieLoeb

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 12:56 AM

Great episode of Meat & Potatoes featuring Han Dynasty as well as one of my other all time faves, my "Death Row Meal" restaurant, Cochon in New Orleans.

The Dry Pepper Lamb looked delicious. Didn't realize there were quite so many ingredients in there. Perennial fave Dan Dan Noodles also make an appearance. And Han managed to slip in an insult to the host by telling him he was ugly. :rolleyes: Awesome. Congrats to Han and the staff on their TV debut!

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#90 SaxChik

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 07:21 PM

Agreed! Amazing that they filmed for 11 hours for 11 (or less) minutes of air time. Would have liked to see more Han and less Rahm, but Han did a great job and really came across professional. Three cheers!

Great episode of Meat & Potatoes featuring Han Dynasty as well as one of my other all time faves, my "Death Row Meal" restaurant, Cochon in New Orleans.

The Dry Pepper Lamb looked delicious. Didn't realize there were quite so many ingredients in there. Perennial fave Dan Dan Noodles also make an appearance. And Han managed to slip in an insult to the host by telling him he was ugly. :rolleyes: Awesome. Congrats to Han and the staff on their TV debut!


"The perfect lover is one who turns into pizza at 4am."
Charles Pierce